There are so many things you can do today that you couldn’t even do a year ago. One of those things is watch a volcano erupting, live, right now, in Alaska. The Alaska Volcano Observatory – Augustine Volcano Watch hosts two web cams and a blog reporting on the activity of the erupting volcano.
AUGUSTINE VOLCANO (CAVW#1103-01-)
59°21’48″N 153°26’W , Summit Elevation 4134 ft (1260 m)
Current Level of Concern Color Code: ORANGE
Low-level eruptive activity continues at Augustine Volcano. During the past week, the overall level of seismicity has increased. There have been periods of prolonged volcanic tremor and an increase in the frequency of small volcano-tectonic earthquakes. Block-and-ash-flows, rock avalanches and rockfall originating from the summit lava dome continue to be recorded by the seismic network, particularly at the east flank station.
Yesterday, the summit was steaming more vigorously than we have observed for 3-4 weeks. A brownish-orange steam and gas plume was observed emanating from the top of the summit lava dome. Fumaroles on the south and west side of the dome were the source of the most vigorous steaming. Areas of bare ground on the upper west and south flanks have substantially enlarged since the March 1.The greatest amounts of steaming from these bare areas is on the upper northwest flank.
Updates to the blog are daily when there is high activity, and weekly when things slow down. There are charts and scientific information and research about the activity of the volcano and the scientists studying it also available.
We’ve been following the volcanic activity for several months now, fascinated with the option to watch the volcano in action as well as to read and learn about what is going on around it. The web cams are fascinating, as are the historical videos of activity on the volcano. The live web cams can be frustrating though, as the nights are long in Alaska right now, so catching the volcano during the few hours of daylight makes it challenging.
The blog also offers information on nearby volcanoes and flight information in case air routes must be changed due to changes in the wind direction and ash clouds.
For the most part, these volcano watch blogs are technical and scientific blogs, rather than emotional ones, reporting on the statistics and day-to-day monitoring activities. But occasionally, you find a little thrill peaking through.
Friday, February 3, 2006 4:50 PM AKST
…Poor visibility prevented clear observation of the volcano by AVO observers in a fixed wing aircraft this afternoon. They reported that a plume emerged from the cloud tops and reached no higher than 6,000 feet above sea level. It was comprised mainly of condensed steam, with more ash-rich clouds being produced occasionally from a source slightly farther down the northern flank. The ash-rich clouds likely resulted from pyroclastic flows. Sea ice off the western shore of Augustine Island had ash deposited on it.
An AVO field crew flew in a helicopter to Augustine today. They added batteries to the station at Mound and cleaned ash from the web camera’s lens and housing. They also finished the installation of a new seismic station. The seismic station is located on the lower flanks of the volcano in the southeast quadrant of the island.
Further explosive activity producing ash clouds to altitudes over 25,000 feet may still occur with little or no warning. AVO is monitoring the situation closely and the observatory is staffed 24/7.
It’s not a Ludlum novel, but the thought of these courageous crew members flying into the highly volatile volcano area to fix the cameras so the researchers and world can keep watching, aware that the mountain had just erupted a few days before and could go again any moment, well, for me, that’s the real drama. Having grown up surrounded by volcanoes, and knowing the deadly threat they can pose, I was on the edge of my seat.
In today’s world of technology, we can a volcano in action, changing the shape of the planet, from the comfort of our safe home, thousands of miles away. Amazing.