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Scientists monitor activity at Veniaminof Volcano

Posted: August 31, 2013 - 10:49pm  |  Updated: September 1, 2013 - 12:04am

JUNEAU — Scientists reported increased activity at one of Alaska’s largest volcanoes on Friday, but geologist Chris Waythomas said it was unrelated to the earthquake that shook the Aleutian Islands that morning.

Waythomas said the increased seismicity at the Veniaminof Volcano, on the Alaska Peninsula, started before the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck, and the two are too far apart.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory reported increased activity, including lava fountaining and ash emissions up to 20,000 feet, from the volcano on Friday morning. Waythomas, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the observatory, said scientists have been monitoring increased activity at the site since early June.

He said the volcano has had some significant past eruptions but nothing that scientists are seeing now suggests anything major is in the works this time. Rather, he suspects there will be a protracted period of the same kind of activity that scientists have been watching.

Veniaminof is about 480 miles southwest of Anchorage; Perryville is the nearest community to the volcano, about 20 miles away, and it received trace amounts of ash fall Friday, Waythomas said — like a dusting on the windshields of vehicles. Depending on how the wind blows, the Chignik area also could see some ash but amounts should be minimal, and there could be some impact on local air travel, he said.

According to the observatory, the volcano, which has an ice-filled summit caldera, is one of the most active volcanic centers in the Aleutian Arc. It has erupted at least 13 times in the past 200 years, with what were characterized as minor ash-producing explosions in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008.

Waythomas said steam has been observed coming off the lava flow as it hits the ice. But he said the lava has not been melting a lot of ice, so there is not a perceived flood hazard.

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