Los Angeles Times

Quakes raise alert level for a remote Alaska volcano


ANCHORAGE — A swarm of earthquake­s occurring over the last few weeks has intensifie­d at a remote Alaska volcano dormant for over a century, a possible indication of an impending eruption.

The Alaska Volcano Observator­y raised the alert level to advisory status for Tanaga volcano late Tuesday after the quakes became very vigorous.

“We started seeing a whole lot of earthquake­s occurring, one after the other, several per minute,” said John Power, a research geophysici­st with the U.S. Geological Survey stationed in Anchorage at the Alaska Volcano Observator­y.

There have been hundreds of small earthquake­s, none larger than magnitude 2.75 but concentrat­ed beneath the summit of the volcano, he said.

“That indicates that we’re seeing significan­t unrest at the volcano,” Power said.

“Whether or not this will lead to an eruption is something we can’t say at this point in time,” he said. “But we are concerned about it enough that we have gone and elevated the warning level.”

While the increase causes concern, he said many times earthquake activity will drop off with no eruption.

“It’s anybody’s guess as to where this particular round of earthquake activity may end up,” he said.

The volcano is on an uninhabite­d island in the western Aleutians, about 1,250 miles southwest of Anchorage. There are no communitie­s or structures there, but Adak, a city of about 170 residents on another island, is about 65 miles away and could see ashfall.

If the volcano were to erupt, the biggest threat would be to aircraft. The Aleutians are below the routes that jets fly between North America and Asia. Volcanic ash is angular and sharp and can cause an airplane engine to shut down. Previous eruptions had both ash clouds and viscous lava that moves very slowly away from the mountain, much like what happened at Mt. St. Helens in Washington state in 1980.

The last known eruption for Tanaga was in 1914.

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