The Cleveland Volcano, located roughly 940 miles southwest of Anchorage in the remote Aleutian Islands, has been in a restless state for nearly two years. Saturday’s explosions lead scientists to believe that the volcano is currently experiencing a continual series of low-level eruptions.
“Based on the signals we can see, we think it’s continuously in an eruption right now,” explained Rick Wessels, a US Geological Survey geophysicist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
The volcano’s last significant eruption occurred in mid-2011. Since that time, the site has experienced nearly two dozen sporadic explosions, but none occurred in a rapid succession like those seen this weekend.
“We haven’t seen a phase like this where we’ve had multiple explosions,” Wessels confirmed to Reuters.
“It’s got us all paying attention.” he continued. “We’re not sure if it will escalate or do what Cleveland does, which is to settle down after small explosions.”
Although the volcano is situated on an uninhabited island, in a fairly unpopulated region, its location falls beneath a significant aviation route between Asia and North America.
While the trio of explosions on Saturday sent low-level plumes of gas, ash, and steam into the air, they were not considered substantial enough to pose a dangerous threat to aircraft in the area.
However, in the wake of Cleveland Volcano’s newest activity, officials from the Federal Aviation Administration reportedly chose to re-route some air-traffic north of the site as a precautionary safety measure. A major eruption would reportedly lead to significant aviation risk.
The picture below shows a 2006 Cleveland Volcano eruption as seen as seen from the International Space Station:
The Alaska Volcano Observatory plans to closely monitor the developing situation at Cleveland Volcano. In an official announcement following this weekend’s eruption, the agency stated the following:
“Sudden explosions of blocks and ash are possible with little or no warning. Ash clouds, if produced, could exceed 20,000 feet above sea level. If a large ash-producing event occurs, nearby seismic, infrasound, or volcanic lightning networks should alert AVO staff quickly.
“However, for some events, a delay of several hours is possible. Cleveland Volcano does not have a local seismic network and is monitored using only distant seismic and infrasound instruments and satellite data. AVO will continue to monitor the volcano and issue additional information as available.”