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Third volcano acting up in Southwest Alaska

Ben Anderson
Intracaldera cone at Veniaminof with steam and ash plume in 2006. Photo coutesy AVO/Tim Plucinski

According the Alaska Volcano Observatory, another volcano is rumbling to life on the Alaska Peninsula. Mount Veniaminof, an 8,225-foot peak 25 miles southwest of Chignik Lake and 485 miles from Anchorage, has rumbled to life since about June 8, when researchers saw a spike in seismic activity at the peak. On Thursday morning, satellite imagery revealed heightened surface temperature indicating a likely "eruption at the intracaldera cone" of the volcano, the AVO reported.

Veniaminof is a wide-diameter peak that features a huge caldera with an active portion located on the western side. AVO researchers report that there has been steam observed coming from the peak, but no ashfall has been sighted yet. Despite that, the observatory elevated the volcano's alert level to "watch," indicating that explosive activity could occur any time. They're warning aviators to exercise caution when flying near the peak.

"Seismic tremors continue, indicative of low-level effusive activity and small explosions," the AVO wrote. "No ash plumes have been observed this (Thursday) morning although clouds have obscured web camera views of the summit."

Veniaminof is a frequently active volcano on the Alaska Peninsula in Southwest Alaska. In February 2008, the last time it was active, Veniaminof spat out "several minor bursts of ash."

"Ash plumes associated with this type of activity are typically diffuse and generally do not reach more than 20,000 feet above sea level," the AVO noted. "Ash fallout is typically limited to the flanks of the volcano. Minor emissions of steam and ash may persist for for weeks to months."

That doesn't mean there isn't more to come, though -- Veniaminof erupted more substantially about two decades ago. In February 1993, the volcano started emitting steam, remaining unsettled until July, when observers spotted fresh magma in the caldera. The eruption continued on and off into 1994, when a June eruption sent an ash cloud to 18,000 feet. Another eruption 10 years earlier sent ash to the 25,000-foot level.

Veniaminof joins two other volcanoes, Mount Cleveland in the Aleutian Islands and Pavlof Volcano, also located on the Alaska Peninsula, in exhibiting unsettled activity. Keep an eye on all the activity at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com