This Aug. 20, 2010 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the lava dome named Novarupta marks the 1.2 mile (2 km) wide vent of the 1912 Novarupta-Katmai eruption. While western U.S. states were suffering from hazy red skies from wildfires, Alaska was dealing with an air quality problem born a century ago. Strong southerly winds picked up loose ash from a 1912 volcanic eruption, sending an ash cloud about 4,000 feet into the sky. (Peter Kelly/U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

This Aug. 20, 2010 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the lava dome named Novarupta marks the 1.2 mile (2 km) wide vent of the 1912 Novarupta-Katmai eruption. While western U.S. states were suffering from hazy red skies from wildfires, Alaska was dealing with an air quality problem born a century ago. Strong southerly winds picked up loose ash from a 1912 volcanic eruption, sending an ash cloud about 4,000 feet into the sky. (Peter Kelly/U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Winds kick up century-old volcanic ash

There were no reports of ashfall in nearby communities near Katmai National Park.

  • By Mark Thiessen Associated Press
  • Tuesday, September 15, 2020 11:15pm
  • NewsState News

ANCHORAGE — While western U.S. states were suffering from hazy red skies from wildfires, Alaska was dealing with an air quality problem born a century ago.

Strong southerly winds picked up loose ash from a 1912 volcanic eruption, sending an ash cloud about 4,000 feet into the sky on Monday.

There were no reports of ashfall in nearby communities near Katmai National Park, famous as the location where brown bears stand in the Brooks River and catch salmon, but pilots were warned about the cloud because the ash can stall engines.

“Basically these sorts of events happen every spring and fall when strong winds pick up ash from the 1912 Novarupta eruption,” said Kristi Wallace, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

The three-day eruption, one of the world’s largest, began June 6, 1912, and sent ash as high as 100,000 feet above the Katmai region, located about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage. The USGS estimates 3.6 cubic miles of magma was erupted, about 30 times what spewed from Mount St. Helens in Washington state 40 years ago.

The Novarupta eruption was the most powerful of the 20th century and ranks among the largest in recorded history.

The ash was deposited in what is now known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. “Just about 600 feet of ash out there that’s not vegetated,” Wallace said.

Cloudy skies obscured satellite imagery on Monday, but a pilot flying at about 20,000 feet first reported the ash cloud, Wallace said.

That was confirmed by a pilot flying at about 2,000 feet.

The observatory issued a statement alerting people that this was not a new eruption from one of the seven volcanos in the Katmai region, but just high winds kicking up the Novarupta ash.

“We know that what’s getting kicked up isn’t just glacial dust, mineral dust that you can see pretty much everywhere else in Alaska,” Wallace said. “These kinds of dust storms happen everywhere. But when they happen there, we know that the material that’s being picked up is predominantly volcanic ash.”

The winds were only about 30 mph, said Michael Kutz, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Anchorage. The cloud moved north from the Katmai region, and they had no reports of ashfall.

Widespread rains Tuesday in the Bristol Bay region prompted the cancellation of ash advisories, Kutz said.


• By Mark Thiessen, Associated Press


More in News

A parking sign awaits the new executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund at its Juneau headquarters, Three finalists will be interviewed for the job during a public meeting Monday by the fund’s board of trustees, who are expected to deliberate and announce the new director immediately afterward. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Interviews, selection of new Permanent Fund CEO set for Monday

Three finalists seeking to manage $73.7B fund to appear before trustees at public meeting in Juneau

Principal Sarge Truesdell looks at cracked siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Split siding at SoHi

The damage has been given patchwork treatment over the years

Members of Kenai Central High School Esports gather around coach Shane Lopez before their League of Legends match Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Video gaming enters the arena

Kenai Central debuts esports team

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Soldotna man found dead in lake, troopers report

State Troopers were notified of a deceased person floating in Browns Lake

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID hospitalizations, cases down from last week

The state reported no new resident deaths from COVID-19 this week

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire
The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. building in Juneau is scheduled to be the site where the board of trustees will select a new executive director on Monday, following the investigation into the firing of former CEO Angela Rodell last December being presented to state lawmakers on Wednesday.
Investigators: Permanent Fund CEO’s firing legal but departed from policy

Trustees acted legally, despite not following official policy, and governor didn’t influence decision

A fishing boat passes the Silversea cruise ship Silver Wind as the boat enters the Homer Harbor on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Finding refuge

Silver Wind is one of two cruise ships to visit since pandemic.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly candidates Dil Uhlin, left, and Jesse Bjorkman participate in a candidate forum at the Soldotna Public Library on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. Both candidates are running for the assembly’s Nikiski seat. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski assembly candidates talk borough issues at final municipal election forum

There are three candidates running for the assembly’s District 3 - Nikiski seat

Kenai Middle School Principal Vaughn Dosko gestures toward a cart used to provide school lunch services on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Security concerns and lunch lines

Safety upgrades, more space sought at Kenai Middle

Most Read