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Pavlof Eruption Loses Steam

Pilots saw Pavlof Volcano spitting a small amount of ash on May 22, 2013. (Courtesy of Ryan Hazen and Brandon Wilson)

Pilots saw Pavlof Volcano spitting a small amount of ash on May 22, 2013. (Courtesy of Ryan Hazen and Brandon Wilson)

There’s still some rumbling beneath the surface, and a few small explosions here and there. But for the most part, Pavlof Volcano on the Alaska Peninsula has quieted down.

Rick Wessels is a geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory. He says the observatory finally got some decent satellite pictures of Pavlof on Friday. They show a lot less ash.

“The plume seemed to be pretty low-level — beneath 15,000 feet. Pretty short,” Wessels says. “It wasn’t nearly the intensity that we saw a week ago.”

Smaller, less intense emissions means that Aleutian communities like Sand Point and Nelson Lagoon are unlikely to be dusted with ash again.

Beneath the surface, Wessels says Pavlof still shows signs of erupting — albeit less violently than before.

“[It's] basically a low level of what we call volcanic tremor, which just means as fluids and lava are moving through the volcano. It just is kind of a continuous, low-level subsonic hum,” Wessels says. “And then there’s still discrete little explosions we can see on the seismic and infrasound networks. So we are able to hear these little pops once in a while, where things get pushed out a little more energetically.”

Wessels says he and other scientists have been going through records of past eruptions at Pavlof to try to figure out what phase the volcano is in.

“We’re not sure if this is a respite from bigger activity or if this is the weaning stages of the end of activity,” Wessels says. “Really, the only we can tell is just watch it for a few more days and see what it does.”

History shows that Pavlof could still spit tall ash plumes up to 20,000 feet into the air with little to no warning. For that reason, the AVO is maintaining an aviation alert for the volcano.

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