Friday, January 30, 2009

Alaska's Mount Redoubt

When our kids were little, we took them to Alaska. When we were driving from Alaska to Homer, we noted a mountain on the other side of the Cook Inlet that was "smoking." We suspected a volcano and were pleased that we had guessed correctly when just a few miles up the road we came to the roadside sign that told us all about Mount Redoubt. We had been to Mount St. Helens and Mount Ranier a couple of years before which was one of the reasons that we were so quick to leap to the conclusion we were seeing another volcano.

In my morning news web surfing, I came across the news that an eruption is eminent at Mount Redoubt. Yahoo News article reports beginning in early November, the volcano changed its emissions and there was some snow melting at the top of the summit. At that point, the scientists raised the volcanic threat level from green to yellow. This past Sunday there was a sharp increase in earthquake activity below the volcano that led scientists to increase the threat level from yellow to orange - signaling that an eruption is imminent.

I remember the scientists who were studying the quakes around Mount St. Helens before it erupted in 1980. It was an amazing time as volcanologists were learning how to accurately predict an eruption.

Mount Redoubt last erupted in 1989-1990. An airliner flying through the ash had all four engines stall out. Fortunately they were able to get them restarted before a crash. But now they issue warnings so that jets won't fly through the ash.

When I was looking at the world wide earthquake maps in the last week, I had noted some in southern Alaska. This week's earthquake list shows several earthquakes in Alaska.

People in Alaska seem to be taking the warnings seriously, stocking up on protective eye gear and masks. The particulates in the air after an eruption are very abrasive and can damage eyes and the air passages in your nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs.

Interestingly enough, the change in status for Mount Redoubt occurred January 25th, but only today did it make the front page at My Yahoo. It will be interesting to see if the mountain settles down or goes into an eruptive phase.

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