Two volcanoes in Alaska, the Cleveland Volcano and the Pavlof Volcano are being closely watched as they appear to be close to erupting.
Authorities have placed both volcanoes on the second-highest alert level because “sudden explosions are possible with little or no warning.”
The Cleveland Volcano underwent a low-level eruption event in early May, spewing ash into the air. As of this week, that volcano appears to have quieted down.
The 5,676-foot high Cleveland Volcano is located on an uninhabited island in the Aleutian Islands. It has 100-meter wide swath of lava extending about 1 mile down its southeastern flank, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
Cleveland Volcano has been in a cycle of increased activity since 2011. Typically, brief outbursts have been followed by a quiet pattern. But scientists are unsure if this eruption will follow that pattern.
Three discrete explosions occurred at 5:00 am, 9:17 am, and 11:44 am Saturday, while less powerful rumbles on Sunday denoted an ongoing low-level eruption. The sequence of eruptions emitted ash, gas, and steam into local airspace, reported the Anchorage Daily News.
“We haven’t seen a phase like this where we’ve had multiple explosions,” said Rick Wessels, a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey’s Alaska Volcano Observatory, told Reuters.
As far as the Pavlof volcano goes, it sits at 8,261 feet, the observatory reported “eruptive activity” that followed “an increase in seismic activity.” Lava has been spotted about 0.3 of a mile (half a kilometer) down the volcano’s north flank.
The Pavlof and Cleveland volcanoes are both located on the Aleutian Island range southwest of mainland Alaska. The Alaska Volcano Observatory has issued a watch due to the heightened eruptive activity along with an orange code regarding how they might affect air travel in the area.
The real issue, with budget cuts over the years, Cleveland is not monitored with ground instruments, like Pavlof. With declining budgets adding such technology to a remote area has been a challenge. In turn, it takes longer to realize Cleveland is erupting. This is a huge problem and hazard for planes flying through.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory can no longer seismically monitor five volcanoes with real-time equipment to detect imminent eruptions.
Geophysicist John Power, the USGS scientist in charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory says, “Because our budget has been declining for so long, we have no hope of actually addressing the Cleveland eruption in the way that it really should be.”
In all, Alaska has 52 active volcanoes – accounting for 80 percent of the active volcanoes in the United States – many of them located on the Aleutians Islands which lays along international air routes between Europe, North America and Asia.
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