Additonal content: Watch aerial footage of Redoubt Volcano (downloading may take some time due to file sizes): MPG/WMV file (34 MB).
Clarice Nassif Ransom: Welcome and thanks for listening to the USGS CoreCast, I’m Clarice Nassif Ransom. Scientists say Mount Redoubt Volcano near Anchorage, Alaska is likely to erupt within days to weeks. I’m here with Dr. John Eichelberger, USGS Volcano Hazards Program Coordinator to discuss the situation. Thanks for joining us, John.
John Eichelberger: My pleasure, Clarice.
Clarice Nassif Ransom: John, tell us what’s happening at Mount Redoubt Volcano.
John Eichelberger: Well it’s in a period that we call “restlessness”. We expect an eruption in a matter of days and weeks. The strongest evidence for this is the presence of small earthquakes indicative of the movement of gas pressurizing the interior of the volcano.
Clarice Nassif Ransom: How is this potential eruption posing danger to people or property?
John Eichelberger: Well the best guide for that is what happened 20 years ago. There were large ash clouds erupted and large mudflows swept down one of the drainages from the volcano. One ash cloud was encountered by a passenger 747, lost power on all four engines, came close to crashing, fortunately it didn’t. We learned a lot from that incident and now, both the aviation industry and the FAA are very aware of this problem and use the information we provide to avoid such encounters.
The mudflows actually inundated an oil storage facility near Cook Inlet. The barriers around the facility have been strengthened, so again, there is lessened risk. But this shows the kind of events that occur.
Some of the hazards are not really so much hazard as a nuisance. There are maybe days of interruption of air travel because of ash in the air. And in fairly heavy ash falls there is interference with even ground transportation and potential for power failures.
Clarice Nassif Ransom: How is USGS science being used by the public and by emergency responders to react to this situation?
John Eichelberger: We have our ear to the ground here quite literally. And also, we use satellite data and many other kinds of data to have up to the minute, up to the second information on what the volcano is doing. We also have the geologic record and our experience from 20 years ago to know what the likely scenarios are and what their consequences are. We’ve worked closely with our partner agencies, emergency responders and communities that are likely to be effected to develop a response plan. So really, everything is in place to respond appropriately in the event of an eruption.
Clarice Nassif Ransom: Is there anything people should be doing that you would recommend?
John Eichelberger: Through our website, they can access a great deal of information on what the hazards are and how volcanoes behave and what to expect.
Clarice Nassif Ransom: Is there any tips, top tips that you would say if you’re living in Anchorage or around that area?
John Eichelberger: The most likely impact is going to be air travel. So the best advice there is to expect to have to be flexible about travel plans.
Clarice Nassif Ransom: Is there anything that you would like to add that I may have forgotten to ask?
John Eichelberger: Of course, an eruption is always a potential catastrophe. Everything is being done to mitigate what could be the negative effects of this eruption. But this is also an opportunity. The volcano comes alive; it’s an opportunity to learn a lot of new things about how the earth works.
Clarice Nassif Ransom: Great! Thanks again for joining us, John.
John Eichelberger: You’re welcome.
Clarice Nassif Ransom: You can find out more information about the USGS Volcano Hazards Program at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/. And thanks to you for listening to this episode of CoreCast. CoreCast is a product of the US Geological Survey, Department of the Interior. Until next time, I’m Clarice Nassif Ransom.