Redoubt re erupts

Explosive eruptions have occurred at Alaska's Mt. Redoubt volcano over the last week, cancelling dozens of flights and showering nearby Alaskan communities with ash.

Explosive eruptions have occurred at Alaska’s Mt. Redoubt volcano over the last week, cancelling dozens of flights and showering nearby Alaskan communities with ash.

No ash or volcanic gases are expected to reach Yukon communities.

“I think that the chance of any ash hitting the Yukon is very unlikely,” said Melanie Kelman, a Vancouver-based volcanologist with Natural Resources Canada.

Unrest has been detected at Redoubt ever since last fall, but it wasn’t until Sunday night that the mountain first emitted a series of five explosive eruptions.

Redoubt last erupted in 1989. Causing more than $100 million in property damage, the eruption holds the distinction for being the second-costliest in United States history.

Volcanic activity has already caused significant melting to a nearby glacier, causing more runoff to a nearby river. A seismic station near the volcano’s summit was also destroyed by the explosions.

“It could turn out to be similar to the 1989 eruption,” said Kelman.

Larger explosions could initiate massive flows of hot ash and gas, prompting downstream mudflows reaching as far as nearby Cook Inlet.

Ash clouds have reached to 18 kilometres above sea level, and traces of ash began to settle on the small Alaskan communities of Skwentna, Talkeetna, Wasilla and Trapper Creek, up to a depth of half a centimetre.

On Thursday, a massive ash plume passed over Anchorage, but did not produce any ash fall.

For now, volcano observers are concerned primarily with preventing jet aircraft from flying into the ash plume.

Volcanic ash poses serious danger to jet aircraft, causing their engines to stall.

During Redoubt’s 1989 eruption, a KLM Royal Dutch airlines flight suddenly had all four of its engines fail. The jumbo jet plummeted four kilometres before the crew could reactivate two of the engines and land safely at Anchorage.

Waves of flights out of Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport have already been cancelled because of the eruption.

Grounded jets were wrapped in protective plastic to prevent wayward ash particles from entering jet engines, reported Alaska Airlines.

For a largely volcano-starved region, activity at Mt. Redoubt has been an exciting phenomenon for researchers.

“Volcanoes on the west coast erupt pretty infrequently. A lot of volcanologists, including myself, have never seen an eruption in person,” said Kelman.

The most recent major eruption to hit western Canadian soil was the British Columbia’s Mt. Baker more than 2,700 years ago.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

tristinh@yukon-news.com