Alaska Volcano Spews Ash 15,000 Feet Into The Air

A remote Alaska volcano spewed a cloud of ash 15,000 feet into the air on Friday as part of an ongoing eruption that has been visible for miles.

The Pavlof Volcano is one of Alaska’s most restless, located 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. The Alaska Volcano Observatory reported clouds of ash, steam, and gas sometimes reaching as high as 20,000 feet.

The ash has been visible from the nearby communities of Cold Bay and Sand Point, where residents are concerned the ash could damage their power generators. So far, air traffic controller John Maxwell has said that the wind is blowing the ash away from the area. He added:

“Everybody is thinking about it. Not that anybody is afraid they’re going to be like Mount Vesuvius and turn into little mummies.”

Onsite seismic instruments show the volcano has had an increase in the force of tremors. The volcano, standing 8,262 feet above sea level, has been erupting since Monday.

Pavlof Volcano’s eruption follows three quick explosions observed by Cleveland Volcano in early May. Both incidents are part of a pattern of increased activity since 2011 that highlight Alaska’s involvement in the Pacific Ring of Fire. Despite Pavlof spewing ash 15,000 feet into the air, the volcano’s eruption is not in danger of interrupting flights.

Rather, the ash would have to be at 35,000 feet before any flights using Alaskan airspace would be interrupted. Jeff Freymueller, coordinating scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, explained that the eruption could last for months. He added, “At this point we’re assuming that it’s going to be at least weeks.”

Pavlof Volcano is part of the Alaska Peninsula, the small strip of land that extends southwest before breaking off into the Aleutian Islands. The islands are really a 1,200 mile chain of volcano cones. Cleveland Volcano is located on uninhabited Chuginadak Island.

The region makes up the northern edge of the Ring of Fire — an area of heightened volcanic activity that also includes Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Washington. Pavlof last erupted in 2007.

[Image via US Fish and Wildlife Services]