Alaska’s Most Active Volcano Erupts, Spewing Ash And Diverting Air Traffic

Alaska’s Pavlof Volcano began erupting on Wednesday, spewing ash into the air 30,000 feet above sea level and prompting aviation warnings directing planes away from the area.

As NBC News notes, the eruption began at a vent near the volcano’s summit, and by Friday, the resulting ash cloud had reached 16,000 feet. Around 6 a.m. Saturday morning, the eruption intensified, sending the cloud even higher.

As the Guardian reports, the volcano sits along international air routes that connect North America with Asia and Europe. Located about 625 miles southwest of Anchorage, Pavlof is Alaska’s most active volcano. More than 40 eruptions have been recorded at the site, including events earlier this year and last year. Though eruptions can last for weeks or months with varying levels of intensity, they have little impact on local communities, as the settlement nearest the volcano, Cold Bay, is over 40 miles distant.

Volcano eruption in Alaska prompts warning for pilots

— Circa (@Circa) November 16, 2014

Dave Schneider, a geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, said that it was unclear how long the eruption would last. Scientists from the observatory raised the alert level for the volcano to warning (red) on Saturday, up from watch (orange). The U.S. Geological Survey’s color coding system for volcanic alerts, which AVO uses, indicates that a volcanic eruption is imminent or underway when a red alert is declared.

“Satellite, pilot reports, and wind data show the ash cloud moving towards the northwest over the Bering Sea,” the observatory reported.

“Ash cloud height and direction will vary significantly through an eruption.”

The eruption is only the most recent volcanic event to take place this year. Last month, eruptions occurred in Hawaii and Costa Rica, while earlier in the year, volcanoes in Japan and Iceland erupted. Several hikers were killed on Japan’s Mount Ontake when it unexpectedly erupted, as the Inquisitr previously noted.

Though there have been no reports of ash falling in local communities surrounding the volcano, the National Weather Service issued a special warning for the residents of Cold Bay and Sand Point on Saturday afternoon, the Alaska Dispatch News reports. Residents were warned that a dusting of ash may fall in the area, potentially posing problems for those with respiratory sensitivities.

The Weather Service noted that the majority of the volcanic ash is expected to remain aloft, falling to the northwest of Alaska, over the Bearing Sea.

[Image: AP via Twitter]