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Alaskan Volcano Eruption Warning Threatening Air Travel

July 24, 2011

The Alaska Volcano Observatory has issued an eruption advisory for a remote volcano in the Aleutian Islands which, according to various media reports, lies underneath a major American flight route.

According to the Daily Mail, the volcano in question–5,676-foot tall Mount Cleveland (also known as Cleveland Volcano) on the western end of the island of Chuhinadak–”could be poised for its first big eruption in ten years,” which has experts anticipating that “it could erupt at any moment, spewing ash clouds up to 20,000 feet above sea level with little further warning.”

Yereth Rosen of Reuters reports that “thermal anomalies” had been detected via satellite on Thursday, and that the volcano, which is located approximately 940 miles southwest of Anchorage, “could erupt with little further warning.”

“A major eruption could disrupt international air travel because Cleveland Volcano, like others in the Aleutians, lies directly below the commercial airline flight path between North America and Asia, said John Power, scientist-in-charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory,” Rosen added.

Airlines have been warned to brace themselves for possible “travel chaos,” the Daily Mail reported late Friday night. Mount Cleveland rests underneath a flight path between North America and Asia that is said to be utilized by several major airlines.

Twenty-one confirmed eruptions have taken place at Cleveland Volcano over the past 230 years, with the only fatality coming in 1944, when a US soldier stationed there during World War II went missing and was presumed dead following a VEI 3 level eruption. The mountain erupted twice in 2010 and three times in 2009.

It is among the most active volcanoes on the Aleutian Islands, but the cost of providing seismic equipment to its remote location have forced observers to rely on other means of studying Cleveland Volcano, including “satellite data, eyewitness reports and video from mariners and pilots in the area,” Rosen said.

As of 11:31 a.m. Saturday, the Aviation Color Code at the volcano was Yellow, with the following notice posted on the Observatory website: “Weather conditions at Cleveland Volcano are cloudy today preventing the assessment or detection of possible thermal anomalies in satellite imagery. No other activity has been observed at the volcano.”

Image Caption: This GeoEye IKONOS image shows a faint plume issuing from Cleveland Volcano at 2:31 PM on September 14, 2010. Red in this image highlights areas of vegetation detected by the near-infrared channel. Credit/Copyright: 2010 – GeoEye

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