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Life returning to Kasatochi 31 August 2009

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Life is already returning to the island of Kasatochi in the Aleutians, blanketed with ash and left bleak and barren by the surprise eruption of its eponymous volcano in August 2008. A scientific team is revisiting the island to look at how it is responding to the eruption, the Anchorage Daily News is running a series of reports on their work, written by University of Alaska Geophysical Institute Science Writer Ned Rozell.

The latest report describes the way in which life is ‘inching its way back to Kasatochi’. The birds are gone and ash outwash from the island is disrupting kelp growth in the surrounding ocean, but nineteen species of plant have been found springing back to life on the island, along with an insect or two and some tough invertebrates: ‘The smallest and luckiest of life forms clung to natural bunkers within the island, and mats of plant roots were buried quickly enough to withstand the heat of the eruption flows’.

News
After eruption life inching its way back to KasatochiAnchorage Daily News, 29 August 2009

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Alaska: steam plume from Augustine 30 August 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Alaska, Augustine, United States.
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Augustine Volcano, Alaska, has been releasing a prominent steam plume from its summit over recent days. The Alaska Volcano Observatory has released a brief news announcement which says that this plume represents normal behaviour for Augustine and is nothing to worry about: it has just been more visible over recent days because of ‘humidity levels and atmospheric conditions’.

Augustine’s largest historic eruption was a VEI=4 event in 1883-4 (see ‘Mount Augustine split in two’), and its most recent eruption (VEI=3) was in 2005-6. The AVO keeps a close watch on Augustine and will respond appropriately should the volcano show signs of renewed activity – that’s what volcano monitoring is all about.

Augustine volcano, Alaska, 25 August 2009 (Image courtesy Dennis Anderson, Night Trax Photography)

In the meantime we have an excuse for reproducing this very nice picture, taken from Diamond Ridge near Homer, Alaska, on 25 August 2009, showing the steam plume very clearly, along with Augustine’s beautiful symmetrical profile. The image, which is available from the AVO website, is courtesy Dennis Anderson, Night Trax Photography.

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Drift River Oil Terminal: what next? 28 August 2009

Posted by admin in Alaska, natural hazards, Redoubt, United States.
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The future of the Drift River Oil Terminal remains unclear, after a public meeting on Monday night that brought together the agencies responsible for the terminal and members of local communities revealed that no-one, including the people running the place, knows quite what happens next.

The oil terminal, which stands at the mouth of the Drift River in the path of lahars from Redoubt volcano (which continues to exhibit ‘significant activity’), was shut down after Redoubt erupted in March, and was finally drained of most of the stored oil that remained on-site at the end of April and beginning of May. There was talk in mid-July of the terminal coming back on line this month, but that seems to have been quietly forgotten. The word that came from the Cook Inlet Pipeline Company (CIPL) at the meeting, reports the Peninsula Clarion, is that the terminal ‘won’t be used to store more oil anytime in the near future’, but beyond that things are very vague. ‘We will work on long term plans’, says CIPL’s Rod Ficken, ‘there are a lot of different scenarios on the table’. In the immediate future a ‘tightline’ system will be used with oil stored in company tanks and piped direct to tankers without being stored at Drift River; longer term, tankage may be expanded at other regional facilities.

Meanwhile the ‘Unified Command’ established in March to oversee the terminal during the eruption is to disband and the facility is to be run and regulated as normal, a process which will involve using ‘transition’ as a verb:

Gary Folley, the state on-scene coordinator for DEC [Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation], complimented the UC [Unified Command] Monday night, on the responses and actions taken though the situation.

‘The formation of Unified Command was a big improvement from the response organization in 1989 and ’90. The main thing is that all the key decision makers were in one place and this allowed for quick decisions … It is now time for Unified Command to stand down. Regulatory oversight of the terminal will transition back to normal agency functions’, he said.

Environmental pressure group Cook Inletkeeper have long been worried about oil being stored at the Drift River terminal. Now that it seems oil will not be stored there but piped direct to tankers they are worried about that instead: ‘now, with the implementation of tightline operations, tanker traffic in the inlet will increase, posing the potential for new and increased risks’.

News
Public to hear plans for Drift River terminalAnchorage Daily News, 14 August 2009
Kenai town hall discusses crude oil stored near Mount Redoubt – KTUU.com, 24 August 2009
No new oil to be stored near Mount Redoubt – KTUU.com, 25 August 2009
Sleepy but not gone to bed: Mount Redoubt continues to exhibit ‘significant activity’Peninsula Clarion, 26 August 2009
Oil terminal to stay unused: Cook Inlet production not anticipated to fully recoverPeninsula Clarion, 26 August 2009

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Drift River Oil Terminal back on line next month 14 July 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Alaska, eruptions, natural hazards, Redoubt, United States.
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In response to ‘a significant decrease in the rate of lava extrusion’ and indications that the growth of the lava dome had ‘significantly slowed, if not stopped’, the Alaska Volcano Observatory lowered the alert level at Redoubt volcano to aviation colour code Yellow and volcano alert level Advisory at the end of last month (AVO advisory 30 June 2009). The eruption may be coming to an end … or it may very well not. In an extended information statement, the AVO warns:

Despite evidence for the significant slowing, and possible cessation of its growth rate, the lava dome is potentially unstable and the possibility of a full or partial collapse remains high at present. Such a collapse would likely be accompanied by the production of a large ash plume and lahars in the Drift River valley. This event could occur with little or no advance warning.

Against this background comes the news that the Cook Inlet Pipe Line Company is planning to have the Drift River Oil Terminal back on line by the middle of next month. The terminal is 40 km from Redoubt’s main vent, at the mouth of the Drift River Valley, which forms a channel for the volcano’s lahars. Plans are apparently in hand to modify the facility so that oil will be shipped directly from the pipeline into tankers, by-passing the vulnerable storage tanks that have been the focus for much concern.

This will get the oil flowing and the people working again (dome collapses and lahars allowing) but the long-term future of the terminal is unclear: ‘The facility remains in pretty good shape’, says CIPL spokesman Casey Sullivan, ‘the concern is the location.’ No kidding.

For all our Redoubt coverage: Redoubt « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Volcano-halted Alaska oil production to resume – Reuters, 13 July 2009
Cook Inlet pipeline operations expected to resume in August – Radio Kenai, 13 July 2009

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Redoubt – summary information for Redoubt (1103-03-)
Alaska Volcano Observatory – Redoubt – AVO information and updates for Redoubt
Alaska Volcano Observatory – main page for the AVO

The Volcanism Blog

Redoubt calms down a little bit 8 May 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Alaska, Redoubt, United States.
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Seismicity at Redoubt has dropped over the last 36 hours, reports the Alaska Volcano Observatory, although it remains at an elevated level. ‘This change does not’, warns the AVO, ‘negate the possibility of an explosive eruption over the coming days’.

Webcam views show Redoubt producing a low but vigorous steam plume. No ash emissions have been detected.

For all our Redoubt coverage: Redoubt « The Volcanism Blog.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Redoubt – summary information for Redoubt (1103-03-)
Alaska Volcano Observatory – Redoubt – AVO information and updates for Redoubt
Alaska Volcano Observatory – main page for the AVO

The Volcanism Blog

Alaska: Veniaminof volcano goes to Yellow/Advisory status 8 May 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Alaska, United States, Veniaminof.
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The Alaska Volcano Observatory have raised the alert level at Veniaminof volcano to Aviation Colour Code Yellow and Volcano Alert Level Advisory. This reflects a significant change in the seismic behaviour of the volcano, as the AVO’s Volcanic Activity Notice explains:

Over the past day [i.e. 7 May 2009], earthquake activity has increased at Mount Veniaminof volcano. This increase is a significant change from normal background activity … Currently the earthquakes are small in magnitude but are registering across the entire seismic network. Seismicity rates are high and have varied between 5-10 earthquakes per hour during quieter periods to 1-3 earthquakes per minute during more intense activity.

The summit crater is producing steam, in line with its habitual practice, and no ash emissions have been detected. The last large eruption of Veniaminof was a VEI=3 event in 1983. Otherwise its eruptive history is characterized by relatively small eruptions (VEI=1 and 2) on a fairly frequent basis: the most recent was in February 2008.

Another Alaskan volcano to keep an eye on.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Veniaminof – summary information for Veniaminof (1102-07-)
Veniaminof Eruption Page – information from the Alaska Volcano Observatory
Alaska Volcano Observatory – main page for the AVO

The Volcanism Blog

Redoubt a-rumbling 5 May 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Alaska, eruptions, Redoubt, United States.
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Seismicity at Redoubt is elevated, reports the Alaska Volcano Observatory, with ‘frequent rockfall signals, numerous small earthquakes, and low levels of volcanic tremor’. Even at reduced scale the pattern is clear on the RSO webicorder trace, as is the increasing intensity of the seismic activity:

RSO webicorder trace, 5 May 2009 (Alaska Volcano Observatory)

This type of seismicity is the language spoken by an actively-growing and unstable lava dome under increasing stress. The lava dome may well be headed for a collapse in the near future: it’s worth keeping an eye on the AVO Hut Webcam.

Further information from the AVO is that the volcano is producing a constant steam plume to about 4600 metres (15000 feet), with rockfalls on the dome putting a little diffuse ash into the emissions. Incandescence was visible after dark on the lower portions of the dome yesterday.

UPDATE. The latest Volcanic Activity Notice from the AVO (2009-05-05 06:59 AKDT) reads:

Current activity at Redoubt volcano suggests that a significant explosive event is likely, though not certain, in the coming days. This event could occur at any time with little or no warning. Since about May 2 shallow earthquake activity beneath the actively growing lava dome of Redoubt volcano has been slowly increasing. The growing lava dome is becoming increasingly unstable.

Should a significant explosion occur, the event will likely produce high altitude (>30,000 ft ASL) ash plumes, trace to minor ash fall in parts of south-central Alaska, lahars in the Drift River Valley, and pyroclastic flows in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.

For all our Redoubt coverage: Redoubt « The Volcanism Blog.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Redoubt – summary information for Redoubt (1103-03-)
Alaska Volcano Observatory – Redoubt – AVO information and updates for Redoubt
Alaska Volcano Observatory – main page for the AVO

The Volcanism Blog

Redoubt stirs as lava dome continues to grow 4 May 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Alaska, Redoubt, United States.
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Mount Redoubt had a restless Sunday, showing a marked increase in seismicity which included ‘more frequent rockfalls and small LPs [Long Period earthquakes]’, reports the Alaska Volcano Observatory. This kind of seismic pattern is consistent with the lava dome coming under increased structural strain as it grows – the volcano may be moving towards a dome collapse. The presence of ‘a persistent thermal anomaly’ at the dome indicates that fresh magma is still being introduced, feeding active growth.

The latest AVO bulletin for Sunday (2009-05-03 21:08:50) reported that ‘A vigorous steam plume, rising to altitudes up to 18,000′ [5500 metres] above sea level, has been visible in webcam images throughout the day. Currently, this plume contains small amounts of ash based on web camera views, satelite data, and a pilot report. Seismic activity has also increased in the last 24 hours’.

Recommended viewing: Akira Shirakawa has compiled a neat video showing the growth of Redoubt’s lava dome from 16 April to 1 May, which can be seen at YouTube (HD version also available).

For all our Redoubt coverage: Redoubt « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Activity at Redoubt increasing as steam plume grows – KTUU, 3 May 2009
Alaska volcano shows increased unrest – Associated Press, 4 May 2009

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Redoubt – summary information for Redoubt (1103-03-)
Alaska Volcano Observatory – Redoubt – AVO information and updates for Redoubt
Alaska Volcano Observatory – main page for the AVO

The Volcanism Blog

Redoubt: Drift River oil removal successful 1 May 2009

Posted by admin in Alaska, eruptions, natural hazards, Redoubt, United States.
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The second round of oil removal from the Drift River Oil Terminal beneath currently-erupting Mount Redoubt has been successfully completed. From a U.S. Coast Guard news release:

About 60 percent of the initial 6.2 million gallons (148,000 barrels) of the stored oil in tanks 1 and 2 at the Drift River Terminal was removed in the April 6 draw down. That volume of oil has been further reduced to about 7 percent of the initial 6.2 million gallons. At least 5,040,000 gallons (120,000 barrels) of water was pushed back into the tanks from the Mississippi Voyager to ensure the tanks do not become buoyant in the event of a flood.

The news release begins by saying that ‘The potential threat posed by the stored oil at the Drift River Oil Terminal has been reduced approximately 93 percent’. It seems, however, that those running the terminal regard the current shutdown as temporary and plan to clean it up and reopen it once the present eruptive phase at Redoubt is over, thus getting the potential threat back up to 100 percent again.

For all our Redoubt coverage: Redoubt « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Update: Additional oil successfully removed from Drift River – U.S. Coast Guard news release, 30 April 2009
Additional oil successfully removed from Drift RiverAlaska Reports, 30 April 2009
Drawing downFairbanks Daily News-Miner, 1 May 2009

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Redoubt – summary information for Redoubt (1103-03-)
Alaska Volcano Observatory – Redoubt – AVO information and updates for Redoubt
Alaska Volcano Observatory – main page for the AVO

The Volcanism Blog

Remaining Drift River oil to be removed 29 April 2009

Posted by admin in Alaska, eruptions, natural hazards, Redoubt, United States.
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The Drift River Oil Terminal, the oil storage facility unwisely situated at the foot of Mount Redoubt, is to be drained of the remainder of its oil.

Around 3.7 million gallons of oil was removed on 7 April, leaving about 2.5 million gallons, mixed with water, still in the tanks. A tanker will arrive at the terminal today to receive the remaining contents of the tanks. The transfer process is expected to take 48 hours. When the transfer is completed, water will be pumped in to stabilize the tanks. There are no plans to clean the tanks, because the site is too dangerous for people to be on site for the length of time the cleaning would take. ‘We are not prepared at this time to put our people on the ground for that duration whilst the volcano remains active’, said Rod Ficken, vice-president of Cook Inlet Pipeline Company, in a sentence impressively packed with redundant phraseology.

The committee overseeing operations at the terminal announced on 21 April that it would not be re-opening any time soon.

For clear evidence from satellite images of just how vulnerable the current location of the Drift River Oil Terminal is, take a look at these images at the Cook Inletkeeper site.

Redoubt itself is still at Orange/Watch status, and is busily building its lava dome which, wreathed in steam, is now very prominent and well-defined (see picture below).

Redoubt lava dome, 28 April 2009 (photographer Game McGimsey, AVO/USGS image)
The lava dome growing in the summit crater of Redoubt volcano since April 4 covers the entire crater floor. Roiling, steaming water is ponded along the south and east margins of the dome. This view is from the south. Photographer Game McGimsey, image courtesy AVO/USGS. [source]

For all our Redoubt coverage: Redoubt « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Oil to be removed from tank farm near volcano – KTUU, 21 April 2009
Oil to be removed from tank farm near volcanoBusiness Week, 21 April 2009
More oil pulled from Drift River tanks – KTVA, 29 April 2009

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Redoubt – summary information for Redoubt (1103-03-)
Alaska Volcano Observatory – Redoubt – AVO information and updates for Redoubt
Alaska Volcano Observatory – main page for the AVO

The Volcanism Blog