Volcano ash cloud covers 400 miles Dave Schneider, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory, is shown at the operations center Tuesday, March 29, 2016, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen/Colt Snapp via AP)
Volcano ash cloud covers 400 miles
Lexile

Strong winds March 28 pushed an ash cloud from an Alaska volcano into the heart of the state. The ash grounded flights and limited travel to western and northern communities off the road system.
 
Pavlof Volcano is one of Alaska's most active volcanoes and is 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. It is on the Alaska Peninsula. That's the finger of land that sticks out from mainland Alaska toward the Aleutian Islands.
 
The volcano in the 8,261-foot mountain erupted about 4 p.m. March 27. It spit out an ash cloud that rose to 20,000 feet.
 
Lightning over the mountain and pressure sensors indicated eruptions continued overnight.  By 7 a.m. March 28, the ash cloud had risen to 37,000 feet. Winds to 50 mph or more had stretched it over more than 400 miles into interior Alaska.
 
"It's right in the wheelhouse of a lot of flights crisscrossing Alaska," said geologist Chris Waythomas, of the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS is part of the Alaska Volcano Observatory, along with the University of Alaska and the state Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.
 
Volcanic ash is angular and sharp and has been used as an industrial abrasive. The powdered rock can cause a jet engine to shut down so some flights were canceled. USGS geologists have compared it to flying into a sand blaster.
 
An eruption of Mount Redoubt in December 1989 sent out an ash cloud 150 miles. The ash flamed out the jet engines of a KLM flight carrying 231 passengers to Anchorage. The jet dropped more than two miles before pilots were able to restart the engines and land safely.
 
"We just simply will not fly when ash is present," Egan said.
 
Waythomas had received no reports of ash falling in communities. The closest community, Cold Bay, is 37 miles southwest of the volcano. That is opposite of where the wind was blowing ash.
 
Geologists call Pavlof an open-system volcano, Waythomas said.
 
"The pathways that magma follows to the surface are pretty open in a volcanological sense," Waythomas said. "They can convey magma and gas very easily. Magmas can move to the surface whenever they feel like it, more or less."
 
The movement comes with little shaking of the ground. And the lack of earthquakes as an early warning of an eruption "makes us go crazy monitoring them," Waythomas said.
 
The volcano is about 4.4 miles in diameter. It has had 40 known eruptions. Its conical, nearly symmetrical shape indicates its eruptions tend to be less violent than the kind that blows tops off mountains.
 
"It can erupt for periods of hours to days. Or it can go on for much longer periods of time," Waythomas said. "It won't erupt continuously for many months or a year. It will be intermittent. But the eruption cycle could go on for a while. Or it could abruptly shut off and be done tomorrow."

Filed Under:  
Assigned 334 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Volcanic ash poses a hazard to jet engines. What other hazards does it create?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (65)
  • clairel307-
    4/04/2016 - 11:13 a.m.

    I wonder how scary it is when a volcano erupts close to where you live? I would probably freak out. Imagine having ash everywhere.

  • braxtonh124-
    4/04/2016 - 11:19 a.m.

    The other hazards it creates is that if it gets to close to land ( town or city) you could breath it in and that causes severe lung damage.

  • kerstynneh1-wes
    4/04/2016 - 02:33 p.m.

    The hazerds it could create is the jet engines take the ash in if to much it could stop the jet from working because all the ash is getting stuck in it it will stop the plane and the ash could get block from the piolet from seeing where there going.

  • julianw-wes
    4/04/2016 - 02:35 p.m.

    Other hazards would be like sky diving or flying a helicopter or a milatary chopper.

  • melissaj-Ste
    4/04/2016 - 08:25 p.m.

    That is incredible, the distance that all of that volcanic ash traveled. I'm just glad no one was injured and it did not cause a lot of damage. There is a volcano somewhere in Western Pennsylvania - I believe it is in the borders of Yosemite - that if it erupted, it would cover everything east of it. That includes almost all of America. That is how powerful a volcano can be.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    4/05/2016 - 01:05 a.m.

    The volcano in Alaska might have been able to blow out a cloud of ash that cover about 400 miles which covered more than it after the first eruption of the volcano in Alaska which covered less than 400 miles. The people might have not wanted to fly an airplane right inside the cloud of volcanic ash which would flame out the engines and could make a passenger plane to be crashing down from the cloud of ash. The people might have not wanted to go into a plane accident that is caused by the volcanic ash that can flame out the jet engines then stop, and then it would fall. People might have been watching over for airplanes going over to the cloud of ash which had first happened and then they would never want another plane crash by a volcanic ash to be happening.
    Critical Thinking Question: Volcanic ash poses a hazard to jet engines. What other hazards does it create?
    Answer: Other hazards such as breathing into volcanic ash while the air is still blanketed with ash and it would cause blindness because people can't see far out while a town or city is being blanketed with ash.

  • mollym2011-
    4/05/2016 - 11:11 a.m.

    I would recommend this article to another student because it really explains and exaggerates on how the eruption force and ash can cause major damage. Huge eruptions like this can cause jet engines to fail, create disasters in small towns near by, and disturb wildlife in their natural habitats. But if a volcanoe can create this much damage, how come the USGS still gets close enough, almost to close, to study these eruptions?

  • william1108-yyca
    4/05/2016 - 09:09 p.m.

    Ir is sort of amazing that on 4 pm in march 27 in some other place the ash rose up to 20,000 feet high. An eruption of Mount Redoubt in December 1989 sent out an ash cloud 150 miles. The ash flamed out the jet engines of a KLM flight carrying 231 passengers to Anchorage. The jet dropped more than two miles before pilots were able to restart the engines and land safely. And also that is pretty amazing and also dangerous. Maybe I will learn more about it.

  • ben0424-yyca-byo
    4/05/2016 - 10:01 p.m.

    This is a bad thing. The ash cloud may make Alaska go into an ice age. The ash will cover the sun, and make everything cold. The ash also may cover lots of things, and maybe ruin the water supply. People should cover their homes and important things to cover them from ash. This is a very serious problem, and very dangerous.
    Critical Thinking Question Answer: Volcanic ash poses the hazard of ruining the water supply. It may also make a region go into an ice age. This could be a very serious problem, unless they prevent it.

  • rachelh-612-
    4/06/2016 - 08:41 a.m.

    Besides shutting down aircraft engines, which I just found out, I believe that the powerful ash can suffocate people as well. If it got in the way of a jet engine and almost costed the lives of people, imagine if the ash traveled into people's homes through open windows. This could cause the home owners to suffocate or severe home damage.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT