Pavlof Volcano Eruption Intensifies, Ash Cloud Diverts Air Traffic

Jun 25, 2013

Pavlof Volcano on June 10th, 2013
Credit Paul Logan / Alaska Volcano Observatory

Pavlof volcano’s eruption has escalated over the past several hours with new lava fountaining and its highest ash cloud of the most recent eruption. USGS Geophysicist Dave Schneider says late last night Pavlof’s seismic tremor ramped up until about 2 a.m.

"We're seeing greatly elevated temperatures in satellite data, we're seeing a plume rising up as well, reported by pilots up to 25,000 feet," said Schneider.

Pen Air has rerouted flights to Dutch Harbor that normally stop in Cold Bay for fuel.  They will instead stop in King Salmon for fuel.  It has not impacted any of Alaska Airlines jet service.

That elevation is high enough to potentially impact long range international travel, but Schneider expects no interruptions of high altitude flights.

"If the routes for the overflying aircraft were such that they were impacted, they could change those slightly.  I suspect air travel will continue at high altitudes without a lot of impact.  At lower levels, regional carriers may have some issues.   The weather in Cold Bay this morning is down on the deck, it's foggy, not a great day for flying at any rate," said Schneider.

Grant Aviation is not flying in Cold Bay today due to the  fog. The highest ash plumes observed previously have been about 22,000 feet above sea level on May 19th and 20th.  Pavlof earlier led to canceled flights to communities including Dillingham, Dutch Harbor, and Cold Bay.

Schneider doesn’t anticipate any ashfall in nearby villages like King Cove, Cold Bay, and Nelson Lagoon.  Small ashfall fell in Nelson Lagoon in the month of May.Meanwhile, the nearby Veniaminof volcano continues to erupt.

"Pavlof and Veniaminof are connected in the broad sense that they're both subduction zone volcanoes.  The accepted theory is that there's not a magma chamber at depth that connects these volcanoes.  It's more of a coincidence, though they're two of the more active volcanoes in Alaska, so it doesn't surprise us they're both erupting at the same time," said Schneider.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory’s alert level for Pavlof stands at watch, with the aviation code at orange.