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Press Release



Secretary Salazar Lauds Scientists’ Role in Preparing Public for Likely Eruption of Mount Redoubt Volcano in Alaska



02/02/2009

Contact: Joan Moody
202-208-6416

REDOUBT VOLCANO, ALASKA--Scientists continue to work around-the-clock monitoring Redoubt Volcano--located 106 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska—where they predict the volcano will erupt within days to weeks. Over the weekend and through midday Monday, seismicity remained elevated, and an overflight on Saturday showed continued melting of the glacier that drains the summit crater.

“The Alaska Volcano Observatory is a prime example of how science can help save lives and protect property,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “It also represents a model federal-state-university partnership through which our scientists and monitoring systems help the public prepare for natural disasters. This is an important reminder of the importance of investing in science and of the value of the scientific work the Department of Interior does, day in and day out. ”

A significant increase in seismic activity last week prompted scientists to raise the aviation color code to Orange and the Alert level to Watch, warning airlines and communities to prepare for a possible eruption. They are striving to forecast the start of the eruption as accurately as possible in order to minimize social and economic disruption, according to Tom Murray, scientist-in-charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory is a cooperative program of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.

The partners are analyzing data from a combination of tools including seismometers placed around the volcano, web cameras, satellite images, ground-based radar, and overflights to measure volcanic gases and provide direct observation of the volcano.

“The public is relying on our science to give them as accurate an analysis as possible, both in the form of forecasts that enable people to prepare for an eruption and then quick, accurate notifications when eruptions begin so they can react when it happens,” said Murray. “We are hoping to get more instruments out on the volcano to improve our capabilities.”

USGS has identified Redoubt Volcano as one of the nation’s highest-threat volcanoes. It threatens not only the Cook Inlet area of Alaska but also national and international air traffic.

USGS reports that it is working to place monitoring equipment on all volcanoes that pose the greatest threats to public safety. In 2005, a nation-wide assessment by the USGS of volcano-monitoring capabilities targeted dozens of other U.S. volcanoes where monitoring infrastructure should be improved so that scientists have the tools they need to make the best possible hazard analysis for the public.

Redoubt last erupted explosively nearly 20 years ago, sending ash 40,000 feet into the air. One ash cloud nearly brought down a 747 jetliner carrying 244 people, and mudflows threatened a Cook Inlet oil terminal.

Current volcanic information about Alaska including activity statements, images, background materials and related hazards can be found at http://www.avo.alaska.edu .

Other volcano observatories are located in Hawaii, the Cascade Range, Long Valley in California, Yellowstone National Park, and the Northern Mariana Islands. See http://volcanoes.usgs.gov.