ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A remote Alaska volcano is again oozing lava into its ice-filled caldera, but the activity is no cause for alarm for nearby villagers, scientists said Wednesday.
Seismic activity and satellite imagery indicated Veniaminof Volcano began emitting a low-level lava flow Sunday, after about a week of quiet behavior, said Game McGimsey, a volcanologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage.
The volcano also produced an ash cloud of about 12,000 feet Monday, but it quickly dissipated. That was the highest of several plumes since the volcano began its eruption in June, and the first since the activity settled down earlier this month.
Veniaminof, pronounced ven-ee-ah-mean-off, has a 6 1/2-mile wide caldera, the large depression at a volcano's center that usually is formed by the collapse of land following an eruption. Protruding from the caldera ice is a "central cinder cone," McGimsey said.
"That's where all the activity it taking place," he said.
The lava flows are not extensive, going down the side of the cone onto the ice on the caldera floor and really not traveling much beyond the base of the cone, he said.
"This is, in no way, hazardous to anybody, any villages or anything," McGimsey said.
Cloud cover has obscured the observatory's webcam at Veniaminof, about 480 miles southwest of Anchorage along the Aleutian chain.
The closest community to the volcano is Perryville, an Alutiiq subsistence village of about 110 people. A state website says the village was founded in 1912 as a refuge for Alutiiq people who were driven from their homes by the eruption of Novarupta, the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The burst dumped ash still visible today along Alaska's Katmai region.
"The weather is kind of crummy right now, and we're unable to see the volcano right now because it's all closed in, foggy," said Timothy Kosbruck, an office clerk for Oceanside Native Crop, the village corporation for Perryville.
He said the 1- to 2-mile visibility was limiting any views of the volcano about 20 miles away. When it's not cloudy, he said the 8,225-foot volcano is clearly visible without the aid of binoculars.
Kosbruck said he hasn't noticed any activity lately, but it was a different story about three weeks ago.
"It was really acting up. You could hear it rumbling, and you could see lava flows," he said by telephone.
Veniaminof has erupted at least 12 times in the past 200 years. The most significant eruptions occurred between 1993 and 1995, when the volcano produced steam and ash and a small lava flow was extruded from a vent. The lava flow melted snow and ice, producing an oval-shaped ice pit.
Eruptions were characterized by small explosions and brief bursts of ash that reached no more than 20,000 feet.
Minor ash-producing explosions occurred in 2002, 2004 and 2005. An eruption in 1983 and 1984 produced an ash plume that went up 25,000 feet.
In 1939, following an eruption, several centimeters of fine ash fell on Perryville.