24th Anniversary of the 1989-90 eruption of Redoubt Volcano

Redoubt eruption

On December 14, 1989, as many Alaskans were preparing for the Christmas holidays, Redoubt Volcano began an eruption that would last for six months, be the second most costly eruption in U.S. history, and jump-start the newly created Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO).

December 15 dawned cold and stormy as Redoubt sent blasts of ash skyward that soon rendezvoused with a Boeing 747 jetliner from Amsterdam carrying 244 passengers and crew on approach to Anchorage International Airport. The ash caused all four engines to shut down, sending the plane into a steep gliding descent of more than 10,000 feet. Fortunately, once clear of the ash, the pilots were able to restart the engines and safely land the plane, thus averting tragedy.

Although AVO had been conceived in April 1988, the observatory was literally born on that memorable morning as scientists scrambled to monitor and assess the ongoing activity, answer the phones, and respond to the instant worldwide media blitz. In addition to wreaking havoc with air traffic, the eruption disrupted Cook Inlet oil storage and production for nearly a year, and caused $160 million in economic turmoil across southcentral Alaska. But the eruption also heralded the beginning of AVO's systematic monitoring of Alaska’s 52 historically active volcanoes, and ushered in a newfound public awareness of volcanic activity and hazards.

Alaska has remained a volcanically active place: in the 24 years since Redoubt's 1989-1990 eruption, AVO has responded to 48 eruptions from 20 different volcanoes. Over the same time period, AVO's monitoring footprint and toolkit has expanded considerably, vastly improving our ability to warn of volcanic activity in Alaska. In addition, AVO staff have worked with the National Weather Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other agencies to improve the coordinated government response to eruptions.

For more information about AVO, Redoubt, and all the volcanoes in Alaska, please visit our web site.