Two Alaskan Volcanoes Release More Energy, Stronger Eruptions Ongoing
June 26, 2013

Two Alaskan Volcanoes Release More Energy, Stronger Eruptions Ongoing

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Two of three active Alaskan volcanoes have shown a sizeable increase in activity since first erupting weeks ago, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO).

AVO warned the Pavlof and Veniaminof volcanoes could become even more active in the future. For now, both volcanoes have been spewing lava and ash into the atmosphere, with at least one of the two peaks disrupting local air traffic.

Pavlof, an 8,000-foot, snow-covered mountain, located about 590 miles southwest of Anchorage, has been erupting since early May. While activity has been waxing and waning since then, it is now on the increase again, continuously rumbling since Tuesday morning, David Schneider, a geophysicist with the USGS, said in a statement to CNN.

Schneider said the volcano is currently spewing clouds of steam and ash, rising as high as 28,000 feet. "It's a pretty good size, but not high enough to affect overflying aircraft between America and Asia," he said. "It's more of a problem for local aviation."

The current level of seismicity is the strongest activity detected at Pavlof since eruptions began in May. Satellite data and pilot reports indicate a plume extending west from the peak, rising high above the clouds. Strong thermal signals at the summit have also been satellite imagery. Officials with AVO have received new reports of trace amounts of ash falling on the community of King Cove some 30 miles southwest of Pavlof.

Meanwhile, Veniaminof volcano, located about 485 miles southwest of Anchorage, started showing signs of activity in early June, first erupting on June 13, according to Schneider. Veniaminof has also produced a lava flow and ash plume, though not as high as Pavlof, limited mainly to around the peak of the volcano, some 8,200 feet high.

Still, eruptions are ongoing at Veniaminof and AVO/USGS experts warn an increase in activity could occur. Satellite images obtained over the past 24 hours show elevated temperatures at the intracaldera cone on Veniaminof, and web imagery show a light-colored plume rising above the cone to the rim of the volcano.

While an increase in activity is possible, experts do not believe larger explosive episodes associated with increased lava production and high levels of ash emission will occur.

Both Pavlof and Veniaminof remain at an orange alert level, which is the third level in a four-phase alert system, with red being the highest.

The National Weather Service has issued an ash advisory for the region, warning of the potential for breathing problems associated with volcanic ash. People with respiratory problems will likely be the most affected. The ash could also pose serious risk to vehicles, aircraft and electronic equipment.

A third Alaskan volcano, Cleveland, which first showed signs of activity in early May, is still restless but no elevated surface temperatures have been observed over the past 24 hours. The alert level for Cleveland is currently at yellow, the second of four alert levels. Cleveland is farther west than Pavlof and Veniaminof, nearly 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. It has been on an up-and-down activity level since mid-2011.