Mt. Cleveland Volcano Could Erupt, Disrupt Air Travel

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Officials are monitoring a remote Alaska volcano that could explode and launch an ash cloud, potentially threatening intercontinental flights.

“Eruptive activity” of Cleveland Volcano was detected in satellite data, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

The volcano, also known as Mount Cleveland, is on the Aleutian Islands, southwest of mainland Alaska.

“A new lava dome has been observed in the summit crater,” the observatory said Tuesday. “There have been no observations of ash emissions or explosive activity during this current lava eruption.”

But the volcanic activity could heighten and affect air travel, said Steve McNutt, a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

McNutt said 90% of air freight from Asia to Europe and North America flies over Alaska air space, and hundreds of flights — including more than 20,000 passengers — also fly through Anchorage’s air space daily.

“If there is an explosion and (ash) reaches high altitudes, it will causes flights to be rerouted and ultimately canceled,” McNutt said.

The volcano’s most recent significant eruption took place in 2001. It produced three explosions that led to ash clouds as high as 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) above sea level, according to the volcano observatory.

“The 2001 eruption also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot avalanche that reached the sea,” the observatory said.

(Darrell Calhoun, CNN, Reporting)