Redoubt Erupts!

Mt. Redoubt in March 2009, prior to erupting

At ~10:30 PM (Alaskan Time) last night, Mt. Redoubt erupted. AVO and the Anchorage VAAC issued a Red Alert for ash as high as 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) around the volcano. Information is scarce about the exact nature of the ash cloud because of the fact that the volcano erupted at night. The eruption has contained at least 5 large explosion and at least one of the seismometers at the volcano has stopped reported (RSO). An ashfall advisory has been issued by the Weather Service, with ash predicted to fall throughout the Susitna Valley (which includes the town of Willow and Cantwell). AVO has warned Alaska residents near the volcano to make proper as precautions such as covering water sources and not going outside as the ash advisory is in effect. AVO has said that the volcano has erupted at least 5 times since the initial eruption at 10:30 PM last night.

Now, I have to admit, I just woke up out here on the West Coast so I'm trying to digest all this information before much coffee, but after first showing initial signs of eruption as early as last fall, and then ratcheting up the rumbling in January, Redoubt finally erupted for the first time in almost 20 years. AVO expects that the explosive eruption might continues for the next few weeks to months, if that patterns similar to the 1989-1990 eruptive events are followed. This will likely disrupt air travel - both freight and passenger - out of Anchorage (and flights have already been cancelled), along with affecting oil in the Cook Inlet as there is a very good likelihood and mudflows/lahars will wash down the Drift River Valley, potentially damaging the oil terminal in the outflow fan of the river.

I will update this information throughout the day as we get more details - like maybe images if the weather/daylight cooperate (keep an eye on the webcam), but sounds like the initial eruption was large if the 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) ash column estimates are accurate and that we can expect Redoubt to be noisy for weeks to come. If you have information or questions, please post them here. I'll try to get to them as soon as I can.

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Hi! 50,000 feet is about 15,000 meters, not 5,000 ;)

By SHIRAKAWA Akira (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

Oops! I've fixed the ash column conversion. That is what I get for trying to write this up before my coffee this morning.

As far as I can tell, this a fairly typical Cook Inlet eruption. I lived in Anchorage for twenty years and became quite familiar with the local volcanoes. Spurr, Iliamna, and Redoubt are always steaming and rumbling and one of them builds to a serious eruption every decade or so. I have three sisters in Anchorage and one of them is in the aviation industry. I'll talking to them tonight and will pass on any information/gossip they have that isn't in the news.

The hut cam is dead as of 0415 local time according to AVO.

Erik, please, if you'd get any data about the SO2 amount of this eruption, polease post it, or put a link of the available data here! Thank you in advance! We live in Central Europe and would like to know if there's a possibility to have some volcanic sunsets like last august's Kasatochi eruption have brought us.

We might get a better idea of what occurred at Redoubt later today as AVO will be doing an overflight later today.

What we know as on 11 AM pacific: multiple explosions (at least 5?), ash fall as far north as Skwentna and the Chuitna area, ash plume on the radar maps as far as 80 km NNE of the volcano (and that was much earlier this morning), Hut webcam is out as is the RSO seismic station. Beyond that, not much in terms of potential lahars, pyroclastic flows or new magma at the surface of the volcano.

PALMD, we really need more monitoring of this volcano. In fact, it could be erupting now and we wouldn't know it.

Oh, wait . . .

Seriously, what more monitering did we need for this? They have seismographs, flyovers to sample gasses, live web cams, etc. I guess what they didn't have were insturments that measured tilt, swelling, etc, but even with these, would they have known more precisely when it was going to erupt? Did any flights fly into the ash cloud because they did not know about it?

I know, the answer will be "What if it was Mt. Rainier?" Good question, especially since I live in that region. If Mt. Rainier showed signs of an eruption, I am sure the USGS would send even more seismograph stations then is already there, they would have flights scheduled to moniter it, they would set up web cams, they would put other insturments there. Seems to be they would be faily well prepared.

Brian - My only comment is where will the money come from to buy new seismometers to put all over Rainier when it decides to reawaken? The USGS infrastructure will not be top of the line forever (if it even is now) and they definitely don't have equipment "lying around" waiting for use. Most likely, they would need to be moved from someplace else to cover the volcano. Keeping equipment running and up to date costs money and should be done all the time rather than right when a new eruption might ensue.

The Anchorage Daily News is reporting that the ash plume is heading up the west side of Cook Inlet and has reached Susitna River. That means it's missing the most heavily populated areas (but managed to hit my family's cabin). The bad news is that the Susitna River is about thirty miles directly west of Anchorage. Many of the commercial airline take off due west. Also, a tiny change in the wind will send the plume right into Anchorage.

Right funding is more desperately needed then most people realize. Much of the equipment is from the 80s and thus prone to more breakdowns and outages. Even with Redoubt, when it became active again some of the moderating equipment came from other areas. Also, as I recall, in February the Hut Cam went out it took a gift from a private pilot to fly a USGS employee out to fix it.

By theroachman (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

On my way to Anchorage from London. Currently in Chicago waiting on a flight to Seattle. In your opinion, what are the chances I will be able to get to Anchorage within the next 2 days?

Jan - I'd check with your airline. Alaska Airlines has some information about expected delays, but things will change as the eruption develops. My guess is you might have a 50/50 shot at getting there via air, but that is bordering on wild speculation on my part. A lot will depend on the magnitude of the eruption, size of the ash cloud and direction of the wind at many altitudes.

Is this considered a major eruption? The ash put into the atmosphere is going to make for a hotter summer, colder winter the global warming folks are going to have a ball with this! When are videos and pictures going to be available for this event

Pete - I haven't seen any estimates so far of the volume of magma erupted, but my guess is that it is very small. I wouldn't consider this a "major eruption" yet (heck, it could just be some throat-clearing). It is way too early to think about climate effects considering the lack of information of volume of ash erupted and the sulfur dioxide flux.

I'm a Senior Lecturer in the Cultural Studies department at Central Saint Martins in which I'm also operating using a project for that market.