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Volcano Watch: Five restless and erupting Alaska volcanoes keep scientists busy in June

Do you want to know which volcanoes in the United States are erupting? Or which volcanoes are showing signs of activity that could lead to an eruption?

You can find answers to these questions at the website of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov.

The home screen features a map display of current levels of activity for nearly 170 volcanoes with links to more information about them and their current activity.

Better yet, you can sign in at the website for the Volcano Notification Service (VNS) to receive automatic email notifications when there is a change in the level of activity at all U.S. volcanoes or in one or more of the following locations: Alaska, California, the Cascades of Washington and Oregon, Hawaii, Yellowstone and the Northern Marianas Islands.

The VNS also will send you information statements prepared by scientists for active volcanoes when the level of activity has not changed significantly. You’ll receive regular updates issued daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly, releases about a volcano’s status, changes in monitoring capabilities, potential eruption scenarios, or general commentary about a volcano.

This service was made possible by the adoption in 2006 of a unified alert-level system by all United States volcano observatories, and in 2010 of a central database-driven system for preparing the notifications and sending them via email to key users and stakeholders. The VNS became publicly available in 2012, and there are now about 7,500 subscribers around the world.

In early June, the map showed five volcanoes in Alaska with elevated alert levels indicating eruption or elevated activity — the highest number of volcanoes scientists of the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) had to track closely and issue notifications and warnings at the same time.

Also shown on the map were activity levels for Pagan Volcano in the Northern Marianas Islands and the ongoing eruption of Kilauea.

The most vigorous eruption in early June was occurring at Pavlof Volcano, one of the most frequently active volcanoes in Alaska, located about 620 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Lava fountaining at the summit generated ash plumes as high as 30,000 feet above sea level that extended as far as 50-60 miles downwind. Lava spatter that accumulated near the vent occasionally collapsed to form hot, lava-rock avalanches down the volcano’s ice- and snow-covered north flank, generating steam plumes and meltwater. Spatter-fed lava flows also moved down the north flank.

In mid-June, AVO scientists increased the alert level for Semisopochnoi volcano for the first time when they detected an earthquake swarm that started June 9. Fortunately, the radio telemetry system for seismic stations monitoring the volcano was repaired about two weeks earlier.

Earthquake activity remains elevated.

Semispochnoi Island consists of many cones and volcanic landforms, including an 5-mile-wide caldera, located about 1,350 miles southwest from Anchorage. The most recent eruption occurred in 1987 when an ash cloud was observed in satellite imagery.

There are several reports of Semisopochnoi producing “smoke” between 1792-1873 from one or more of its cones.

The other Alaskan volcanoes with elevated activity levels in June included Shishaldin, with a low-level eruption, and Cleveland and Veniminof volcanoes, with elevated seismic activity and thermal features.

All of this activity required even more than the usual vigilance by AVO scientists to track the eruptions and unrest using monitoring networks, satellite data and observations.

They are ever watchful for signs that a hazardous explosive eruption is imminent or underway, using the VNS to report about the status of the volcanoes to the world.

Kilauea activity update

A lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u produced nighttime glow visible via HVO’s webcam during the past week.

The lava lake level was relatively steady, hovering about 115 feet below the rim of the Overlook Crater. A rockfall from the Overlook Crater wall triggered a small explosive event July 23, bombarding the closed Halema‘uma‘u visitor overlook with spatter.

On Kilauea’s East Rift Zone, lava flows from Pu‘u ‘O‘o’s northeast flank vent continued to advance slowly toward the northeast, reaching to about 1.5 miles from the vent by midweek. Pu‘u ‘O‘o’s crater floor continued to subside slowly.

No earthquakes were reported felt during the past week on the Island of Hawaii.

Visit the HVO website (http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov) for past Volcano Awareness Month articles and current Kilauea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai activity updates, recent volcano photos, recent earthquakes and more; call (808) 967-8862 for a Kilauea summary; email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.

Volcano Watch (http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/) is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.


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