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Three volcanoes are erupting simultaneously in Alaska’s ring of fire

Three remote Alaska volcanoes are erupting simultaneously along a row of remote islands nicknamed the ‘Ring of Fire.’

Pavlof, Great Sitkin and Semisopochnoi Volcanoes all remain under an orange threat level Friday, signaling that eruptions are underway and minor ash emissions have been detected. They sit along the remote Aleutian Islands, known as the ‘Ring of Fire,’ so called because of the number of volcanoes that sit along a deep oceanic belt running under the islands. 

So far, none of the small communities near the volcanoes have been affected, Chris Waythomas, a geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory, said on Thursday.

Webcams on Thursday clearly showed episodic low-level ash emissions from Pavlof, the volcano raising the most red flags out of the three, prompting the observatory to raise the volcano’s threat level from yellow, or exhibiting signs of unrest, to orange.

The change of color signal was prompted by ash clouds, which were seen rising just above Pavlof volcano’s 8,261-foot (2,518-meter) summit, drifting about 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) to the south before dissipating, Waythomas said. 

The Pavlof Valcano (picutred) last spewed ash in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska in 2016 

He added that Pavlof is a ‘very sneaky’ volcano due to its ‘peak open system volcano’, meaning that its ‘magmatic plumbing system is open and magmas can move to the surface really fast and it can start erupting almost with no warning.’    

The nearest community to the volcano is Cold Bay, about 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) southwest of Pavlov, one of Alaska’s most active volcanoes in the Aleutian Islands arc of active and dormant volcanoes.  

Pavlov is a snow and ice-covered stratovolcano on the southwestern end of the Alaska Peninsula, nearly 600miles (965.6kilometers) southwest of Anchorage. 

Just like Mount Vesuvius, Pavlof is a peak open system volcano, which means that magmas can move to the surface really fast and the volcano can start erupting almost with no warning.

Just like Mount Vesuvius, Pavlof is a peak open system volcano, which means that magmas can move to the surface really fast and the volcano can start erupting almost with no warning.

The volcano is approximately 7km in diameter and has active vents on the north and east sides close to the summit. Not too far away is another volcano, Pavlof Sister. 

The name Pavlof comes from Russian, translating to ‘Paul’ or ‘Saint Paul’. This volcano name was first published as ‘Pavlovskoi Volcan’ by Captain Lutke, a German-Russian navigator, in 1836.    

Pavlov last erupted in 2016, dropping some ash on another community near Nelson Lagoon.

Another volcano set on orange alert by the observatory on Thursday, which received reports from people in the community of Adak of a lava fountain at the summit, is the Great Sitkin volcano. The reports were later confirmed by webcam.

Eruption plumes from Great Sitkin volcano in Alaska on August 4. All three volcanoes have been in eruption for the past two weeks, according to U.S. geologists

Eruption plumes from Great Sitkin volcano in Alaska on August 4. All three volcanoes have been in eruption for the past two weeks, according to U.S. geologists

Active lava fountains from Great Sitkin volcano on August 5

Active lava fountains from Great Sitkin volcano on August 5

‘The fact that they just happen to walk outside and see it was really great,’ Waythomas said.

He said if activity increases, Adak could get ashfall from Great Sitkin, located on an island about 27 miles (43.45 kilometers) away.

‘This lava fountain is kind of unusual for Great Sitkin, but it’s been fairly passive at this point,’ he said.

Great Sitkin, a stratovolcano is about 1,150 miles (1,851 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage.

Semisopochnoi Volcano, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) away on an uninhabited island at the western end of the Aleutian Islands, has been erupting intermittently and on Wednesday produced an ash cloud that went to about 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) into the air, Waythomas said.

Semisopochnoi Volcano spewed an ash cloud about 10,000 feet into the air on an uninhabited island in early August

Semisopochnoi Volcano spewed an ash cloud about 10,000 feet into the air on an uninhabited island in early August

The observatory on Thursday received reports from people in the community of Adak (pictured) of a lava fountain at the summit of the Great Sitkin volcano. The reports were later confirmed by webcam.

The observatory on Thursday received reports from people in the community of Adak (pictured) of a lava fountain at the summit of the Great Sitkin volcano. The reports were later confirmed by webcam.

Most of the remainder of the peninsula northeast of Andrew Lagoon and north of Clam Lagoon (pictured) constitutes a single volcanic structure

Most of the remainder of the peninsula northeast of Andrew Lagoon and north of Clam Lagoon (pictured) constitutes a single volcanic structure

The volcanic islands that make up the so-called Aleutian Arc are part of a horseshoe-shaped zone that can be traced along the rim of the Pacific Ocean where many of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. 

This region, known as the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire,’ is seismically and volcanically active because it is located at the boundaries of several tectonic plates that continually collide and mash together.

While Pavlof, Great Sitkin and Semisopochnoi are in remote parts of the Aleutian Islands, they can produce ash clouds that are hazardous for air travel.

It’s been at least seven years since three volcanos erupted simultaneously in Alaska, and the recent unrest has kept monitoring campaigns lively at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

‘It can get going without much warning,’ Waythomas concluded. 

A map showing volcano locations and threat categories within Alaska and the 'Ring of Fire' around the Bering Sea, which is in the area of responsibility of the Alaska Volcano Observatory

A map showing volcano locations and threat categories within Alaska and the ‘Ring of Fire’ around the Bering Sea, which is in the area of responsibility of the Alaska Volcano Observatory 

A 3D block diagram across North America showing a mantle tomography image reveals the Slab Unfolding method used to flatten the Farallon tectonic plate. By doing this, Fuston and Wu were able to locate the lost Resurrection plate near Alaska's Ring of Fire

A 3D block diagram across North America showing a mantle tomography image reveals the Slab Unfolding method used to flatten the Farallon tectonic plate. By doing this, Fuston and Wu were able to locate the lost Resurrection plate near Alaska’s Ring of Fire

A graph of the plate tectonic reconstruction of western North America 60 million years ago showing subduction three key tectonic plates, Kula, Farallon and Ressurection near Alaska's Ring of Fire

A graph of the plate tectonic reconstruction of western North America 60 million years ago showing subduction three key tectonic plates, Kula, Farallon and Ressurection near Alaska’s Ring of Fire


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