Dormant Volcano Possibly Awakening in Alaska


A photo of the volcano Tanaga in Alaska | Image by Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program

A long-dormant volcano in the Andreanof Islands in southwestern Alaska may be waking up from its slumber.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory has raised the alert level of the dormant volcano Tanaga to “watch” after detecting increased seismic activity in the area. Scientists have documented several earthquakes occurring around the volcano and the surrounding area ranging from magnitude one to four.

The observatory noted some of these earthquakes were occurring beneath the summit of the volcano, with the largest ranging from magnitudes two to three.

There are no populated areas near the volcano, with the community of Adak being the closest at 65 miles away. Adak might observe ash falling if an eruption occurs, according to Fox News.

Scientists with the Alaska Volcano Observatory believe that the greatest risk posed by this volcano upon eruption would be to aircraft in the region flying between Asia and North America.

“Earthquake activity beneath Tanaga Volcano began to increase slowly starting at about 1:30 PM AKST today. At roughly 8:45 PM AKST this evening, the activity escalated with earthquakes occurring as often as 2 or 3 each minute,” said the organization in a Facebook post.

The Tanaga volcano is the largest of three volcanic edifices along the Tanaga volcanic complex, standing at nearly 6,000 feet tall, per the Alaska Volcano Observatory. The volcano last erupted in 1914.

The observatory has no recorded eruptions for the remaining two edifices, Sajaka and Takawangha. But there is evidence that past eruptions previously thought to be from Tanaga might in fact be from these two edifices. Takawangha is currently under the same orange watch status.

As John Power, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told AP News, the hundreds of small earthquakes recorded at the summit “indicate significant unrest at the volcano,” which warrants keeping an eye on it.

“Whether or not this will lead to an eruption is something we can’t say at this point in time, but we are concerned about it enough that we have gone and elevated the warning level,” he continued.

Officials continue to monitor the volcano and its activity.

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