Three Volcanoes Are Erupting Simultaneously in Alaska

Scientists continue to monitor activity in Aleutians, other U.S. sites

A view of the Aghileen Pinnacles & Pavlof Volcano from the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
A view of the Aghileen Pinnacles & Pavlof Volcano from the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Kristine Sowl, USFWS via Flickr under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Things are heating up in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Four remote volcanoes are active in the archipelago jutting from the 49th state, which is part of the “ring of fire” where the Pacific tectonic plate meets several others.

Three of the volcanoes are erupting or spewing steam and ash while the fourth is exhibiting elevated surface temperatures, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), a joint program by the United States Geological Survey, Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.

Scientists set the threat level to “orange,” indicating eruptions are underway, for the Great Sitkin, Pavlof and Semisopochnoi volcanoes, reports Mark Thiessen of the Associated Press. Currently, Cleveland is “yellow” because of signs of unrest. All four are located in remote sections of the Aleutians.

The Pavlof volcano, located on the peninsula, is the most active. Episodic low-level ash emissions and minor explosions have been detected by a webcam set up on the summit of the 8,261-foot stratovolcano, which is usually covered in snow and ice.

Pavlof, which last erupted in 2016, is about 35 miles northeast of Cold Bay, a city of 108 people. The community is not considered at risk at this time.

“It’s a very sneaky volcano,” Chris Waythomas, a geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory, tells AP. “It can get going without much warning.”

The other three volcanoes are located on islands further along the archipelago separating the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean. Scientists detected a lava fountain at the summit of Great Sitkin, also a stratovolcano with a caldera and dome. Great Sitkin Island has two small villages with less than 400 people.

The volcano on the uninhabited island of Semisopochnoi has been erupting intermittently, sending plumes of ash 10,000 feet into the air, reports Jenna Romaine of Changing America.

So far, Cleveland, located on the western end of Chuginadak Island, has exhibited low levels of seismic activity, while satellite imagery has detected elevated surface temperatures, according to AVO updates. This volcano last erupted in 2020.

Scientists continue to closely monitor the volcanoes for signs of changes or increases in activity.

“That may sound like a disaster movie in the making, but the states of eruption aren’t all that dramatic so far,” reports Danielle Banks, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel. Pavlof, she adds, is considered “one of the most active volcanoes in Alaska.”

These are not the only volcanoes under watch in the United States. Currently, two other volcanoes—one in Hawaii and another near Guam—are also showing signs of activity, reports the Weatherboy website.

Located on the big island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on earth, has experienced a series of earthquakes in recent days but has not erupted. Pagan near Guam in the South Pacific Ocean has also exhibited earthquakes as well as smoke emissions.