Satellite imagery proves essential for monitoring erupting Aleutian Volcano


  • Kenneson Dean,

    1. Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, P.O. Box 757320, Fairbanks, USA
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  • Jonathan Dehn,

  • Steve McNutt,

  • Christina Neal,

  • Richard Moore,

  • Dave Schneider


Mt. Cleveland is one of more than 40 active volcanoes in Alaska that is monitored by the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO). It is located on the western half of Chuginadak, a remote and uninhabited island in the east central Aleutians that lies 1526 km southwest of Anchorage. The closest inhabited community, Nikolski, is 75 km to the east on Umnak Island (Figure 1).

Mt. Cleveland erupted explosively on 19 February and on 11 and 19 March 2001. Because the volcano is not yet monitored with seismic, deformation, or other geophysical instruments, satellite imagery was the only effective tool for detecting and monitoring this activity. Eruption clouds and elevated surface temperatures were detected on multiple satellite data sets. The largest eruption was in February. This first eruption cloud and the subsequent wave of ash (Figure 1) that drifted across Alaska extended up to flight levels and prompted cancellation and re-routing of air traffic throughout the North Pacific region on 19 and 20 February.