It was “Code Red” in Alaska on Sunday afternoon when Mount Pavlof had an abrupt volcanic eruption, spraying ash thousands of meters over the surrounding area.
The volcano started its tremoring at around 3:53 p.m. (local time) on March 27, according to a report from the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO). Less than half an hour later, the volcano had begun its eruption and bellowed out ash clouds over 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) high. By Monday, the ash cloud had risen to over 11,300 meters (37,000 feet) and drifted more than 120 kilometers (400 miles) towards mainland Alaska.
The ash cloud was so dense and large that many of the local weather webcams were unable to receive any images from the eruption. However, Colt Snapp managed to catch this incredible photograph (top) of Mount Pavlof in full-stream from the window of a commercial airplane flight on Sunday evening.
The 2,517-meter (8,261 feet) mountain lies along the Alaska Peninsula and has erupted 40 times in recorded history, making it one of the most consistently active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc.
— Dan Lindsey (@DanLindsey77) 28 March 2016
Fortunately, the surrounding area is very sparsely populated. Cold Bay, the closest town with a population of 109, is 59 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of the volcano, the opposite direction of where the ash was blowing.
"The pathways that magma follows to the surface are pretty open in a volcanological sense," geologist Chris Waythomas, of the Alaska Volcano Observatory, told the Associated Press.
"They can convey magma and gas very easily. Magmas can move to the surface whenever they feel like it, more or less.
"It can erupt for periods of hours to days or it can go on for much longer periods of time. It won't erupt continuously for many months or a year. It will be intermittent. But the eruption cycle could go on for a while, or it could abruptly shut off and be done tomorrow."
— Alexa Van Eaton (@volcaniclastic) 28 March 2016