An Alaskan volcano that has been spitting out ash and lava for the last several years, finally erupted and sent smoke and ash up to 24,000 feet in the sky. The Pavlof volcano is located in an uninhabited region nearly 600 miles (966 km) southwest of Anchorage.
The volcano prompted scientists to issue their highest volcanic alert in five years but has so far not interfered with any regional air traffic.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory last issued a volcanic alert in 2009 when Mount Redoubt had a series of eruptions that spewed ash 50,000 feet upward.
The warning was issued because scientists are not sure how long the volcano will spit the ash and smoke or how high it could go. Many volcanoes have a series of eruptions instead of just one big one. Scientists believe the Pavlof volcano will do the same.
"This means it can erupt for weeks or even months," observatory research geologist Michelle Coombs said of the warning. "I don't think we will be at red for that long, but we are expecting it to go for a while based on its past."
Since the area near the volcano is uninhabited, scientists and authorities are only worried about air traffic and how the volcano may affect it.
There have been no problems so far as the weather has made it easy for pilots to see the dust and lava before they get too close to it.
"Right now, with the weather clear, it's just putting on a good show," Coombs said. "We're getting a lot of pilot reports and a lot of good photos, so we're able to keep a good eye on it."
Many planes travel over the volcano on a daily base but they usually fly at elevations of at least 30,000 feet. The lava and smoke have not yet reached those heights and scientists believe the eruption will not interfere with the air traffic. They still issued the alert as a safety precaution and to make pilots aware of the volcanic eruption.
Image via Wikimedia Commons