From: Yereth Rosen, Reuters, ANCHORAGE, Alaska
Published July 23, 2011 08:25 AM

Cleveland volcano in Alaska shows signs of impending eruption

Recent satellite images of a remote Alaska volcano along a flight route for major airlines show it may be poised for its first big eruption in 10 years, scientists said.


The Alaska Volcano Observatory has issued an eruption advisory for the 5,676 foot-tall Cleveland Volcano, located on the uninhabited island of Chuginadak in the Aleutian chain about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The advisory was based on "thermal anomalies" detected by satellite, the observatory said on Thursday. Those measurements indicate the volcano could erupt at any moment, spewing ash clouds up to 20,000 feet above sea level with little further warning, the observatory said.

A major eruption could disrupt international air travel because Cleveland Volcano, like others in the Aleutians, lies directly below the commercial airline flight path between North America and Asia, said John Power, scientist-in-charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

The volcano's last major eruption came in 2001, when it blasted ash more than 5 miles into the sky and spilled lava from the summit crater. Cleveland has experienced several smaller eruptions or suspected eruptions since then.

So far, airlines have not changed their flight patterns because of Cleveland's heat emissions, said Steve McNutt, a University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist who works at the observatory.

Scientists are not always certain about what is happening at the remote volcano, observatory officials said. The town of Nikolski, the nearest settlement to Cleveland Volcano, is 45 miles away.

Although Cleveland is among the most active of Alaska's roughly 90 volcanoes, no seismic equipment is set up there because the costs of working in such a remote area are prohibitive, observatory officials said.

Photo credit: Alaska Volcano Observatory

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