Old Volcanic Ash Causes New Problems for Alaskans

Spruce trees covered in volcanic ash after the 1912 eruption; photo by George C. Martin


Residents on Alaska’s Kodiak Island were haunted last week — not by Halloween ghosts, but by the remnants of a long-ago volcanic eruption.   Ash dating back to the 1912 eruption of Novarupta was stirred up by strong winds and dry conditions along the Alaskan coast. The ash rose as high as 4,000 feet and prompted aviation warnings. People said it looked like smog.

The eruption of Novarupta was one of the largest in the modern history — 10 times more powerful than Mt.St. Helens. The original ash spewed up to 100,000 feet in the air.  It covered the floor of Alaska’s Katmai Valley to a record 700 feet and drifted as far as Northern Africa.

All that debris takes a long time to disappear, and Dave Schneider, of the Alaska Volcano Observatory, said it’s no surprise that Alaskans are still seeing the after-effects.  The geophysicist says they’ll be seeing ash for “many, many more years.”

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