Eruption at an end?: Redoubt's activity uncertain for now

Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2009

For the past two and a half months, Mount Redoubt erupted on a daily basis; however, the volcano's activity seems to have waned in recent weeks.

"The potential dangers are still there, but it appears that the lava is slowing down its rate of extrusion," said Allison Payne, a geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Payne said the last "explosive event" took place April 4. Since then -- until recently -- the volcano continued to extrude lava at the summit. The lava coming out of the summit formed an unstable dome.

Payne said the dome has grown to 1,000 meters in length, 460 meters wide and 200 meters tall.

"It's very large," she said.

For more than two months, the AVO has seen the dome increase in size. In the past weeks, though, Payne said no significant growth has been observed.

Lava may still be flowing slowly or it could have stopped altogether, she said. Nothing is certain at this point.

"The lava dome could still be unstable," Payne said. "It could still collapse."

Should the lava dome collapse, flooding and more ash are expected to follow.

The last flood that resulted from Redoubt occurred April 4.

Even if lava has stopped flowing, the risk of the dome collapsing still exists, Payne said.

"Just simply the instability of a pile of fresh lava is a potential hazard. That could collapse due to gravity," she said.

The AVO will continue to monitor Redoubt 24 hours a day.

"We're still keeping a close eye on it," Payne said.

Weather has prevented a fly over of the volcano but Payne said they hope to make a trip across Cook Inlet this week.

Steam continues to emanate from Redoubt. Steam, sulfur and carbon dioxide gases are representative of fresh lava, Payne said. As lava makes its way to the surface, those gases are released.

Redoubt's activity is typical of an active volcano.

"This is how volcanoes grow," Payne said.

The majority of Redoubt's mass is composed of former lava flows, previous deposits and old ash.

"The new dome growing in is a major part of mountain building," she said. "That's why they exist."

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



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