Printer friendly versionALASKA VOLCANO OBSERVATORY INFORMATION STATEMENT
Monday, July 14, 2008 4:26 PM AKDT (Tuesday, July 15, 2008 0026 UTC)Okmok Volcano
53°23'49" N 168°9'58" W, Summit Elevation 3520 ft (1073 m)
Current Volcano Alert Level: WARNING
Current Aviation Color Code: RED
A strong explosive eruption is underway at Okmok Volcano on Umnak Island in the eastern Aleutians. The volcano is currently at aviation color code RED
and alert level WARNING. All areas immediately around the volcano are considered hazardous. Airborne ash and gas continues to drift with the wind and pose a hazard to aviation in the area. Additional ash fall will occur on Umnak Island and possibly adjacent islands as long as the eruption continues.
Observations and Background
The eruption began abruptly at 11:43 AM on July 12 after about an hour of rapidly escalating earthquake activity.
Ash and gas from the initial explosions reached at least 50,000 feet above sea level on July 12 and drifted as a large cloud south and east where it remains in the atmosphere above the North Pacific. Satellite tracking of the ash cloud by traditional techniques has been hampered by the high water content. Heavy ash fall occurred on the eastern portion of Umnak Island; a dusting of ash also occurred for several hours in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor.
At this time, based on AVO analysis of satellite data, ash is continuing to erupt from a composite cinder and spatter cone called Cone D in the eastern portion of the 6-mile wide caldera or crater of Okmok. It appears that the eruption is very water-rich due to interaction of rising magma with very shallow groundwater and surficial water inside the caldera. We have few direct observations into the caldera and details of the current event remain unknown.
The current activity differs in character from the past three significant eruptions at Okmok in 1945, 1958, and 1997. All of these eruptions occurred at a cinder and spatter cone on the far western portion of the caldera floor, Cone A. In general, each eruption was mildly to moderately explosive with most ash clouds produced rising less than 30,000 ft above sea level. Each eruption also produced a lava flow that traveled about 5 miles across the caldera floor.
Prognosis and hazards
Based on past eruptions at Okmok and our analysis of the current episode of activity, we would expect this event to continue for several weeks and possibly longer. The position of the vent in the eastern caldera adjacent to a shallow lake suggests that water will continue to play a role in increasing the explosivity of the eruption resulting in significant ash and steam production. If the eruption follows patterns of previous Okmok events, lava will eventually reach the surface to form lava fountains, spatter accumulations, and possibly a lava flow. It is also possible that explosivity could intensify at any time.
Conditions around Okmok volcano on Umnak Island remain hazardous at this time. Ash fall is expected to continue downwind of the volcano including over marine areas in the North Pacific. The caldera and areas in the immediate vicinity of the volcano on Umnak Island should be avoided, particularly the Crater Creek drainage northeast of the caldera. Strong explosions are likely producing ballistics or larger particles of tephra that can impact the area around the caldera rim and surrounding area for several miles.
Pyroclastic flows and surges, dangerous fast moving clouds of ash, larger particles, and hot gas, could form and travel across the caldera floor as well as over the caldera rim and down slope. Mudflows or lahars may form as rain mixes with the ash fallout. These will likely be channeled down drainages from the caldera rim, especially to the east and south of the volcano, including Crater Creek which drains to the Bering Sea to the northeast of the caldera. Depending on the evolution of activity within the caldera, Crater Creek may become dammed posing an extreme flooding risk in the Crater Creek Drainage.
AVO will continue to monitor the volcano closely. The operations room at AVO in Anchorage is now staffed 24 hours per day. We will attempt to visit the volcano as soon as conditions allow in order to better document and understand the activity and ongoing hazards. New data and observations may lead us to change our assessment. Any changes would be announced in a subsequent Volcanic Activity Notice. AVO appreciates the cooperation and assistance of mariners, pilots, residents of Unalaska and other Aleutian communities who are sending observations, ash samples, and photographs via our web site.
Further information on Okmok Volcano and related hazards can be found at the following web sites:
Alaska Volcano Observatory: Most recent information on Okmok Volcano
U.S. Geological Survey: Hazards associated with volcanic ash fall
NOAA National Weather Service: Ash cloud trajectories, ashfall and marine advisories
NOAA National Weather Service SIGMET
Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management: Community preparedness
VOLCANO INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET: http://www.avo.alaska.edu
RECORDING ON THE STATUS OF ALASKA'S VOLCANOES (907) 786-7478
John Power, Acting Scientist-in-Charge, USGS
Steve McNutt, Coordinating Scientist, UAFGI
The Alaska Volcano Observatory is a cooperative program of the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.