By the Blouin News Science & Health staff

U.S. volcanic activity takes spotlight

by in Research.

Alaska’s Pavlof Volcano: NASA’s View from Space. (Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr)

Alaska’s Pavlof Volcano: NASA’s View from Space. (Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr)

On Sunday, the famous Pavlof Volcano in Alaska shot a giant cloud of ash 37,000 feet into the air, a few days after researchers from from the University of Leicester released a report on volcanic eruptions around the Snake River Plain in Idaho, making it an eventful week for volcanologists.

Pavlof Volcano, located at the tip of the Aleutian Islands, is consistently active, has erupted 40 times, and keeps volcanologists on their toes. This most recent eruption gave scientists about 25 minutes of notice according to reports, and its intensity ramped up quickly. Some flights were initially cancelled, but as Gizmodo notes, the travel situation could get far worse if the ash funnels into the jet stream which is moving over the volcano’s area right now. If that occurs, ash could travel down the west coasts of Canada and the U.S., impeding far more travel than it already has.

Before Pavlof’s Sunday night eruption, the volcanology world had been fixated on research that found that the number of giant “super-eruptions” that occurred between 8 and 12 million years ago in the Snake River Plain, an ancient volcanic site that has been of geological interest for many years, were fewer in number, but much more impactful than previously believed. The research’s official announcement says that the “12 recorded giant eruptions were likely ‘significantly larger’ than research has previously suggested.”

Dr Tom Knott from the University of Leicester’s Department of Geology’s Volcanology Group said: “The size and magnitude of this newly defined eruption is as large, if not larger, than better known eruptions at Yellowstone, and it is just the first in an emerging record of newly discovered super-eruptions during a period of intense magmatic activity between 8 and 12 million years ago.”

The research team is still interested in how Yellowstone and the studied area could be a “dwindling member of a volcanic system that was much larger and more violent” during the period 12-8 million years ago. Clearly, there is still much to learn about both historic and active volcanic sites in the U.S.