A volcano to watch: Mount Redoubt

Jan 30 2009 Published by under Science news

Via CNN, we learn that Mount Redoubt in Alaska is showing clear signs of an eminent eruption.

As is always the case with forecasting eruptions, it is impossible to predict exactly when the eruption will happen; from CNN:

Peter Cervelli, a research geophysicist with the observatory, told CNN that "every indication is that we're heading toward an eruption."

Cervelli said scientists don't know exactly when it will happen, but if it does happen, it could be days or weeks -- or even hours.

This uncertainty can lead people to make life-threatening and even foolish decisions.  Before Mount St. Helens erupted catastrophically in 1980, loggers had fought to return to work in the area around the mountain.  Had the eruption happened on a day other than Sunday, many of them would have been killed.

Even pre-eruption, Redoubt has claimed its first casualty: the Alaska Volcano Observatory's website!  Because of the enhanced media coverage, traffic to their site (and the webcam pointing at Redoubt) has overwhelmed their servers.  As of this posting, the webcam site displays an apologetic message.

Though the eruption will be a great opportunity for scientists to gather more information on volcanic eruptions, it will undoubtedly suck for local residents.  This includes the people of Anchorage, who live only about 100 miles away.  Though they aren't in any direct danger, the eruption will probably disrupt air traffic and has the potential for dumping lots of annoying ash on the city (via Google maps, with my marker for the volcano, as there seems to be some dispute in Google as to the mountain's exact location):


It could be quite a show, though; Redoubt last erupted in late 1989, and throughout the early part of 1990, and produced some spectacular images (via Wikipedia):


(Original photograph by R. Clucas, April 21, 1990.)

For those who are interested in reading more about volcanoes and volcano research, I can recommend the blog Magma Cum Laude, which is written by a graduate student of geology with a specialty in volcanoes.  I don't know whether or not Jess will have a lot to say about the Redoubt eruption, but the blog is one I use for my vulcanology fix.

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