Augustine scare was overblown

Steam clouds not sign of big eruption

Posted: Friday, April 21, 2006

Large clouds and looming steam hanging over the peak of the Mount Augustine volcano caused concern of a major eruption for some on the Kenai Peninsula this week.

According to the Alaska Volcano Observatory’s data, however, there is no cause for alarm. Augustine didn’t blow Tuesday and doesn’t appear likely to blow anytime soon.

AVO geologist Jennifer Adleman said the sight from Homer on Tuesday morning made her wonder if such misunderstandings about a possible major eruption event would occur.

“There is what appears to be a large cloud of steam over the summit that could be interpreted as ash, but if you look at the local camera (the camera on the island), you can tell it’s just steam,” Adleman said.

When the AVO receives reports of Augustine activity, whether via e-mail, telephone or through Federal Aviation Administration reports, the group cross-checks the reports with thermal activity readings and seismic data to determine if an eruption is likely.

Steam clouds were present Tuesday, but other factors were not.

“There were no large earthquakes or anything else that indicated an increase in activity,” she said. “It does look like plumes, but compiling other information shows that it just isn’t happening.”

Adleman said days on which Augustine can be seen clearly and days on which there is heightened concern contribute to false reports.

“During the discreet events in January and into February, there were more frequent calls and e-mails warning of activity when there wasn’t any,” she said.

Worry is one factor, but Adleman also said visitors to Homer unfamiliar with how Augustine looks on a day-to-day basis contributes to false reports, as well.

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