Low-level eruptive activity occurs in volcanoes across Alaska

Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 5:46 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Alaska has more volcanoes than any other U.S. state by an order of magnitude, and since late last February several of them have been quite active according to David Fee, Alaska Volcano Observatory Coordinating scientist with the Geophysical Institute.

“We really have three volcanoes at an elevated color code, which basically means that they’re at elevated activity right now, and two of those are orange. One is Veniaminof volcano which is on the Alaska peninsula, and the other one is Semisopochnoi which is further out in the western Aleutians. The other one at yellow, which is not actively erupting right now, it’s just elevated, is Cleveland volcano,” said Fee.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory’s Aviation color code system gives a quick and comprehensive summary of a volcano’s current activity. The two that are classified as orange are actively erupting right now.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory's Aviation color code system gives a quick and comprehensive...
The Alaska Volcano Observatory's Aviation color code system gives a quick and comprehensive summary of a volcano's current activity(Alaska Volcano Observatory)

“They erupt in a little bit different ways but Veniaminof actually has a lava flow that’s going underneath a glacier, this big summit caldera, which is actually pretty interesting. It also has this kind of smaller cone at the summit that has these small explosions, and then currently these small gas and ash clouds. Semisopochnoi, further west, it has kind of these intermittent explosions and occasional ash clouds from that. But the clouds of ash from these are still relatively small,” said Fee.

These eruptions only pose a potential hazard to aviation. There are no communities near Semisopochnoi; however Perryville and Chignik Lagoon are close enough to Veniaminof for a show.

“Veniaminof is kind of interesting because it’s not particularly close to some communities, but it’s close enough that they can see it and they can occasionally hear it, and actually over the past week heard some of the explosions from the volcano which is understandably kind of unsettling I think for them,” said Fee.

According to Fee this level of activity is a relatively common occurrence.

“They erupt fairly often and they can erupt for a long time too. So we expect this activity to continue, and probably go up and down. Last week we had some bigger ash clouds from Veniaminof and that very well may happen again. We often see these cycles where the volcano will go up and then go down over the span of a few months,” said Fee.

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