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AVO Puts Shishaldin Volcano On Higher Alert

After a week of unrest, Shishaldin Volcano in the Aleutians is being put on a higher alert level.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory reported Friday that there have been explosions inside the volcano and elevated surface temperatures since March 18.

AVO head scientist John Power says that appears to mean there’s been a small eruption.

Shishaldin Volcano with a typical steam plume, pictured on Sept. 14, 2013. Photo by Joseph Korpiewski, U.S. Coast Guard.

Shishaldin Volcano with a typical steam plume, pictured on Sept. 14, 2013. Photo by Joseph Korpiewski, U.S. Coast Guard.

“There is probably fresh magma or lava down inside the crater,” he said.

Power says there hasn’t been any lava seen on the rim of the crater or the sides of the volcano. Shishaldin also isn’t emitting any ash.

But Power says this could be a precursor to a bigger event.

“Little things happen like this happen at Shishaldin probably even more often than we’re able to detect,” he said. “They’re always, though – whenever you see some activity like this, there is a concern that it could, you know, escalate into something larger.”

He says Shishaldin is now on a “watch” alert level, which carries an orange color code. It had previously been on a yellow – or “advisory” level – since January.

Only one of the six seismic monitoring stations on Shishaldin is active right now. The others are offline, and there’s not enough funding available to repair them.”

Shishaldin is on Unimak Island, northeast of Unalaska. Of all the conical glacial volcanoes in the world, it’s the the most symmetrical. It’s also the Aleutian Islands’ highest peak, and one of the most active in the chain.

Its last big eruption was in 1999, when it sent an ash plume 45,000 feet above sea level. There hasn’t been any unusual activity there since 2009.

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