Saturday, March 16, 2013

49: Alaska’s ever-sizzling Cleveland Volcano releases ash plume

A NASA satellite captured a small cloud of ash puffing from the top of Cleveland volcano on March 14, 2013. Who needs TV in Alaska when you’ve got Mount Cleveland to watch? The ever-simmering volcano in the Aleutian Islands has once again let out an ash plume just one month after last being upgraded after satellite imagery indicated increased temperatures in the peak.

NASA’s Earth Observatory released a photo Friday showing a small ash cloud emanating from Cleveland and a field of ash staining the volcano’s winter-white summit. The volcano rests on an uninhabited island about 45 miles west of the community of Nikolski. Cleveland had been listed under “advisory” status by the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) on Wednesday, meaning that it was showing signs of unrest beyond normal background levels, but no imminent indications of eruption. Satellite imagery on a clear day Wednesday suggested no unusual activity at the volcano. In the most recent weekly report for Cleveland, observers said that temperatures in the dome had returned to normal in late February, prompting a downgrade from the “watch” status the volcano had been under.

“Anomalous surface temperatures prevalent in late January through mid-February declined, and the last thermal anomaly observed in satellite imagery was reported on February 26,” researchers said, before downgrading the volcano to its current status. Chris Waythomas, a geologist with the AVO, said that Thursday’s ash burp was nothing alarming, or even out of the ordinary, for Cleveland. “If you were to look at the summit of some other pretty constantly active volcanoes … they’d look very similar,” Waythomas said. He said that the peak of Cleveland is typically pretty warm, and almost always snow-free, whether from the heat or from wind in the weather-weary Aleutians blowing across the summit.

Cleveland has no real-time monitoring due to its remoteness, so scientists rely on distant seismic equipment and satellite imagery — the latter of which is only really helpful on days when it’s not cloudy. “We’ve been keeping a pretty close eye on it — or as close as we can — and satellite data indicates the lava dome in the crater hasn’t changed at all,” Waythomas said. He said that the internal heat of the volcano can cause steam, and some ash to burst out of the peak on a regular basis, though it doesn’t rise much beyond a couple of hundred feet.  – Alaska Dispatch, via Extinction Protocol

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