Saturday, June 09, 2007

There is a volcano eruption in Russia

The 15,580-foot Klyuchevskoy Volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula has been blasting ash into the sky and burbling lava down its flanks, producing a well-monitored hazard to air traffic along the North Pacific Rim.

Klyuchevskoy Volcano erupts on May .

Scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory say the "explosive-effusive eruption" has slightly eased this week, but another blast could send ash more than five miles high at any time.

One of the most active volcanoes in the North Pacific, Klyuchevskoy erupted May 27 with splattering lava and floes of molten rock and explosive bursts into the sky. Ash plumes rose more than 29,000 feet into the atmosphere and extended up to 370 miles over the Pacific, according to the
dispatch posted online by AVO.

The eruption continued, with ash rising up to 23,000 feet on May 29 to 31. "New lava flow was noted on the eastern flank of the volcano on May 31," the
most recent dispatch reported. "Strong phreatic bursts were observed on the front of this lava flow. Clouds obscured the volcano in the other days."

Note the growing pyroclastic cone atop the summit crater, actively emitting ash. The gray column of ash and vapor at left likely represents explosive interaction of a summit- lava flow with ice and snow on the high flank of Klyuchevskoy. Credit: Yuri Demyanchuk, Institute of Volcanology and Seismology FED RAS.

Klyuchevskoy is one of 29 very active Kamchatka Penisula cones monitored by the
Kamchatkan Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT) in a project coordinated with the Alaska Volcano Observatory. The two organizations use satellite images, seismic networks, infrared detection and human observers to give warning of ash plumes in the air.

Jet flights carrying up to 20,000 passengers and millions of dollars in cargo cross the North Pacific every day, running a gauntlet of active
Alaskan and Russian volcanoes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the world’s geologic hotspot.

When sucked up by air intakes, the tiny abrasive ash particles of rock and glass produced by an eruption can destroy or damage jet engines and turbines, causing aircraft to plummet from the sky.
In December, 1989, a KLM Boeing 747 with 231 passengers and 13 crew flew into a
Redoubt Volcano ash cloud about 25,000 feet above Talkeetna, about 100 miles north of Anchorage. All four engines quit. The jumbo jet plunged for the next 12 minutes, dropping more than two miles, before the pilot managed to restart the engines. Minutes later it landed in Anchorage with no serious injuries among its terrified and shaken passengers, and $50 million in damage to its engines.

At least 100 other aircraft have flown into ash clouds during the past 20 years across the world. No one has died, but equipment has sustained hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

To avoid such a catastrophe, the North Pacific volcanic chains have been monitored around the clock by American and Russian scientists since the early 1990s.

Founded in 1988,
AVO began watching the four active volcanoes in Cook Inlet and quickly expanded coverage down the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Chain. Now more than 20 volcanoes have been wired with seismic sensors and webcams, while the observatory’s 22 full-time staffers conduct research and issue daily reports about volcanic action.

Kamchatkan Volcanic Eruption Response Team, or KVERT, started operations in 1993 in cooperation with the Alaska observatory. The Russian scientists used their local network of seismic stations and field observations, combined with American satellite images, to share updates of volcanic activity on the peninsula with the world. This past spring, the network went off line due to budget cuts, but later resumed operations.

Klyuchevskoy Volcano interrupted air traffic in 1994 in one of the biggest North pacific eruptions of recent times. An explosion drove a column of ash 49,000 feet into the sky after three weeks of restless low-level earthquakes.

The plume rode 150 mph winds more than 620 miles southeast and crossed into North Pacific air traffic lanes between 31,000 and 38,000 feet above the ocean. But KVERT personnel issued an alert and, working with the AVO, within two hours, aviation authorities had rerouted flights to avoid the ash.

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