Remote Veniaminof Volcano Releases Steam and Rumbles Seismic Sensors

Jun 10, 2013

Veniaminof volcano cinder cone within its glaciated caldera in 2006.
Credit Tim Plucinsk / Alaska Volcano Observatory/USGS

Alaska now has three active volcanoes.  The Veniminoff volcano on the Alaska Peninsula is releasing steam and rumbling seismic sensors. Scientists first detected low level seismic tremor late last week.  That’s been slowly increasing since Friday. And thanks to a FAA camera 22 miles away in the community of Perryville, geologists have seen a wispy steam plume coming from the main vent.

Michelle Coombs s a Research Geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

"If there were ash in the plume, we would have seen a deposit on the snow. The weather's been so beautiful that I think if there were ash in the plume we  we would have had pilot reports about that.  It's probably  just a steam plume  at this point,” said Coombs.

That plume is reaching as high as 12 thousand feet.  No flights have been impacted as of Monday. The volcano experienced a massive eruption in 1750 BC that left a nearly 7 mile wide caldera. At its peak of 8-thousand feet, that caldera is mostly covered by a glacier.  The active cone is located within the caldera, surrounded by huge amounts of ice.    

"The types of eruptions we've had at Veniaminof in the past decades have not been big enough to melt large volumes of the ice up there.  But if we were to have a large eruption, that would definitely play a role," said Coombs.

The 2009 eruption of Mount Redoubt melted ice in its crater and formed mud flows all the way to Cook Inlet. The last lava flow on Veniaminof took place in the mid 90s.  Since 2004 low level ash emissions have occurred, with the last in May of 2008.

"It's not erupting, but this seismicity definitely suggests that we need to keep an eye on it.  It would not surprise us at all if we would start to have ash come out of Veniaminof.  Like Pavlof, it erupts pretty frequently," said Coombs.

The observatory raised the alert level to advisory and the aviation color code to yellow.