Alaska Issues Alert on Cloud of 109-Year-Old Ash

Wind has whipped up deposits from Novarupta
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 18, 2021 7:03 AM CST
Ash From 1912 Eruption Heads for Alaska Island
Ash in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.   (Peter Hamel/NPS)

Volcano scientists issued an alert Wednesday, warning that a cloud of ash—from an eruption more than century ago—was headed toward Alaska’s Kodiak Island. The ash is from the powerful 1912 eruption of Novarupta, a volcano on the Alaska Peninsula that dropped volcanic ash that is still visible today. Strong northwesterly winds in the vicinity of Katmai National Park and Preserve and Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes on Wednesday kicked up the loose volcano ash. "Generally, this time of year, we get these northwestern winds that can come down from the Katmai region and really scour some of the free ash that that’s deposited from the 1912 eruption and then bring it up to height," Hans Schwaiger, a US Geological Survey research geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, tells the AP.

Winds are expected to carry the ash about 100 miles southeast toward Kodiak Island. An aviation alert to aircraft has been issued for the low-lying event. Scientists estimated the cloud would not go above 7,000 feet. Some of these events can cause a light dusting of ash in nearby communities. The three-day Novarupta eruption, one of the largest in history, began June 6, 1912, and sent ash as high as 100,000 feet above the Katmai region, located about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage. The US Geological Survey estimates 3.6 cubic miles of magma erupted, about 30 times what spewed from Mount St. Helens in Washington state 40 years ago. It left ash deposits up to 600 feet deep in what is now known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

(More Alaska stories.)

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