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, one of Alaska's most active volcanoes, is 625 miles southwest of Anchorage 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, spitting 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, about 4.4 miles in diameter, 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."
 
The USGS raised the volcano alert to its highest level, which warns of hazards both in the air and on the ground.

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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 (53)
  • michaelg-ver
    4/04/2016 - 11:02 a.m.

    The other hazards that it creates are to the people. The ash can cause breathing problems and also it can be dangerous to certain plants.

  • alexr-6-ric
    4/04/2016 - 04:01 p.m.

    Other hazards it could create is loss of food or water for people to eat or drink. The power may go out for a few days. It will be hard for people to see while their driving. People may die because of the ash in the sky if they breath it in.

  • jazlynt-1-ric
    4/04/2016 - 04:05 p.m.

    The other hazards that volcanic ashes create is that the wind blows the ashes and it can get into people's lungs. In the article it says "That is opposite of where the wind was blowing ash." It also says "The movement comes with little shaking of the ground." And those are some hazards that are created.

  • joey0111-byo
    4/04/2016 - 08:03 p.m.

    It can create a bad breathing environment for both people and animals. Also, if jets are already flying, and there is ash in the air, they would have to turn around. It would also help global warming.

  • khyonc-ric
    4/05/2016 - 04:04 p.m.

    Other hazards that volcanic ash can have is that it can pollute the air and it can also pollute the oceans.If the ash is in the air it can make breathing harder and or more hazardous.When the ash falls into the ocean it can turn the water hazardous for the fish and other animals that live in the ocean.

  • riannas-ric
    4/05/2016 - 04:25 p.m.

    Volcanic ash poses a hazard to jet engines. There are many other hazards too. Some of these hazards are on the ground. If you are driving and can't see because of ash you could crash into another car or a building. It is also dangerous if it gets into your eyes. Luckily no one on the ground was is danger. In the story it says "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." Those are some other examples of the hazards that ash causes.

  • skyeh-ric
    4/05/2016 - 08:39 p.m.

    The other hazards volcanoes can create are the earthquakes they create. The text says "'makes us go crazy monitoring them,' Waythomas said.". Also all the magma that comes, that can be very hazardous to the environment. Also if there are any communities around.

  • kristinaj-ric
    4/05/2016 - 08:53 p.m.

    Volcanic ash can create many other hazards because angular and sharp and has been used as an industrial abrasive.I mean if it can cause a jet engine to shut down it can do quite a few more things than just shutting down jet engines. "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.". I am now pretty scared of volcanic ash...

  • Steve0620-yyca
    4/05/2016 - 09:51 p.m.

    Volcanic ash is really dangerous and can cause a lot of harm and deaths. I think that the jet was lucky to have survived from flying over the volcanic ash. Wind has made the volcanic ash spread to other places. The volcanic ash has not fallen in close communities. The Pavlof volcano is conical so it is less violent and it is an open-system volcano.
    Volcanic ashes are a huge pollution to the atmosphere and it can kill people if they are surrounded by it. They turn into statues when they are in the ash. Volcanic ash creates a lot of harm and danger.

  • hassans-ver
    4/06/2016 - 08:54 a.m.

    Can ash pollute air or water? If so, did any animals or people get hurt from the ash.

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