Redoubt still erupting -- quietly

Posted: Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Approximately 50 miles across Cook Inlet, Mount Redoubt stands at a towering 9,000 feet; a steady trail of steam emanating from its peak. Though the last explosive spectacle occurred more than two months ago, the volcano has continued to erupt, going relatively unnoticed.

"As long as there's lava coming out, it's erupting," said Allison Payne, a geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory. "It's just doing it quietly."

Payne said that last "explosive event" took place on April 4. Since then, the volcano continues to extrude lava at the summit, she said.

"Lava continues to build up at the summit. It could collapse and flow down the north side of the volcano," Payne said.

The lava coming out of the summit has formed a dome. Payne said it appears unstable. Should the lava dome collapse, flooding and more ash are expected to follow, she said.

The last flood, as a result from Redoubt, occurred on April 4.

"It could go at anytime," Payne said. "In these natural systems, we realize that anything could happen."

When most think of lava, they envision a flowing, liquid lava, much like the flows from Hawaiian volcanoes, Payne said. However, Alaskan lava is much different.

"The lava we have here in Alaska is generally thicker and stickier," Payne said. "We do have lava flowing but it's doing so very slowly."

Payne said the volcano has been erupting for 66 consecutive days, shattering the previous record of 36 days set by Redoubt in the 1989 eruption.

Though, nothing new has happened in that time.

"The situation is similar to what's it's been the last 66 days," Payne said. "Nothing really has changed significantly in recent days to weeks."

Payne said Redoubt could stop erupting and the lava dome could cool and solidify, however, it's currently still in an active phase. The volcano will remain on "watch" status and is continually monitored.

"We recognize variation in eruptive activity of any volcano," Payne said. "The volcano is still erupting, it's just seismically silent."

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.



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