Alaska's Remote Cleveland Volcano Erupts: International Air Traffic Could be Hit

First Posted: May 06, 2013 09:11 AM EDT

One of the coldest places in the United States is experiencing a little bit more heat. Alaska's remote Cleveland Volcano is experiencing a continuous low-level eruption after it exploded early Saturday morning.

Cleveland Volcano is a stratovolcano that is distinctively conical and symmetrical in form. It's actually the tallest member of the Four Mountains group, and is known for its hot springs around its base.  The volcano has actually been restless since mid-2011 when it first began oozing lava. Since then, there have been about 20 to 25 eruptions at sporadic intervals.

While the volcano is located on an uninhabited island in one of the most sparsely inhabited regions in the state, though, it does pose some issues; it causes threats to airplanes flying overhead since it can spew ash into the air, which can clog engines. In fact, the volcano is positioned directly below a major air-traffic route between North America and Asia, according to Reuters.

In all, three explosions occurred at the volcano when it first rumbled to life. It then began emitting a continuous plum of ash, steam and gas. In fact, a faint plume of ash extended eastward below 15,000 feet, though there were no flight restrictions as a result, according to USA Today.

"Sudden explosions of blocks and ash are possible with little or no warning," said scientists in an interview with USA Today. "Ash clouds, if produced, could exceed 20,000 feet above sea level."

It's difficult to monitor the location, though. Alaska Volcano Observatory scientists actually rely on satellite data, signals from a different volcano about 50 miles away and eyewitness reports. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no seismic equipment on the mountain that can be used to inform scientists.

Currently, officials are paying attention to the volcano and making sure that the eruption doesn't become any stronger. If it does, the aviation alert that is currently set to "orange" will most likely be updated, and air traffic will be diverted from the area.

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