Our friendly neighborhood volcano, Mt. Redoubt, has continued to put on a spectacular show just across Cook Inlet from Kenai. For the first time since the recent eruptive episode started, there was noticeable ashfall in Anchorage.
We had a few hours of notice, so I put a sheet of notebook paper out and let the ash collect on the paper. In four hours, I collected about a teaspoon of ash on the paper. If you go to the Alaska Volcano Observatory website, they describe the proper procedure for collecting an ash sample, and I did a passable job following their directions.
Here is what I collected:
When I went to scoop the ash into the plastic bag, the air smelled strongly of sulfur. It occurred to me that just a few hours earlier, this ash had been molten rock deep inside a volcano. This ash was essentially the youngest rocks on Earth.
I think most people just take rocks for granted. If we bother to consider the age of a rock, we’re not really able to fully grasp what the age of a rock might be. Even if one has no idea of the age of a rock, the first number that pops into our mind is likely to be in the millions of years.
This volcanic ash was less than three hours old when I scooped it into the bag. And before that, it had been molten rock deep inside a volcano. This ash was ash from Hell… literally!
UPDATE: Here it is, one day later… and as you walk through the stores or around town, you can still smell the sulfur, and people are wearing masks. The snow, which just yesterday was a brilliant white, is now grey, and becoming more grey by the hour as it melts. Footprints in the snow are white inside, surrounded by the dirty grey of the ash.
The volcano is making for entertaining conversation both in the office and in online chats here in Anchorage, but while we marvel at nature, people in other areas are having to deal with some of the problems associated with the volcano.
We had an eruption this morning, and most of the low-level ash traveled south and east from the volcano, and is now falling out in the Homer area.
There is a steady stream of images and information being published online, but one of the best sources is the Alaska Volcano Observatory. On their website, they have two webcams of the volcano – here and here - and some of the other volcanoes they watch, like this one, historical information, and collections of recent photos.
Hard-core volcano watchers also know to watch the National Weather Service Radar, where you can see the radar representation of the ash plume.
I think it is just a matter of time before Anchorage gets its dose of ash. This is not a good thing, by the way. Volcanic ash is microscopic glass particles, and they’re very irritating to the eyes and lungs, they damage machines, particularly cars and airplanes, and all in all make a mess.
It is strange here today in Anchorage – the plume is overhead, and all of the airports are closed. It is rare to see a sky without airplanes in Alaska.
After weeks of unrest, Mt. Redoubt, located about 80 miles southwest of Anchorage, has erupted. For the latest information, visit the Alaska Volcano Observatory Website.
You can also see the plume in weather satellite images and on the National Weather Service Radar in Kenai .
For the latest information visit the Alaska Volcano ObservatoryWebsite or listen for official news and information from the media.