Volcanic mountains

Winds lift volcanic ash from Alaska’s 1912 eruption


Ash drifts around the barabaras (mud houses) of Katmai village after Novarupta erupted in June 1912. Katmai’s New Russian Orthodox Church is visible in the background. (GC Martin/US Geological Survey)

Volcano scientists issued an alert on Wednesday, warning that an ash cloud – from an eruption more than a century ago – was heading towards Kodiak Island in Alaska.

The ash comes from the powerful 1912 eruption of Novarupta, a volcano on the Alaska Peninsula that dropped volcanic ash still visible today.

On Wednesday, strong northwesterly winds in the vicinity of Katmai National Park and Preserve and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes lifted ash from the volcano.

“Typically at this time of year we get these northwesterly winds that can come down from the Katmai area and really strip some of the loose ash that was deposited in the 1912 eruption and then bring it at height,” Hans Schwaiger, a U.S. Geological Survey research geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory told The Associated Press.

Winds were expected to carry the ash about 100 miles southeast toward Kodiak Island, and an aircraft air alert was issued for the low-level event. Scientists estimated that the cloud would not exceed 7,000 feet.

Some of these events may cause a light dusting of ash in nearby communities.

“This one in particular appears not to be as ash-rich as some of the others, so there will likely be negligible ash fallout,” Schwaiger said.

Novarupta’s three-day eruption, one of the largest in the world, began on June 6, 1912, and sent ash as high as 100,000 feet above the Katmai region, located about 250 miles north. southwest of Anchorage. The US Geological Survey estimates that 3.6 cubic miles of magma erupted, about 30 times what erupted from Mount St. Helens in Washington state 40 years ago.

The Novarupta eruption was the most powerful of the 20th century and ranks among the largest in recorded history.

The ashes were deposited in what is now known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, depositing approximately 600 feet of ash in places.

High winds and dry, snowless conditions will produce these ash clouds intermittently, the observatory said in a statement, adding that there was no eruption in place.

The statement said all seven volcanoes in the Katmai region, including Novarupta, remain at the lowest, or normal, level of green.

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