(ORDO NEWS) — In a remote, roughly 800-mile stretch of the Aleutian Islands chain in Alaska, three volcanoes erupt simultaneously, with at least two spewing large quantities of ash and steam.
Simultaneous eruptions have been going on for more than a week, but they currently do not pose a threat to nearby settlements and have not disrupted air traffic, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
However, volcanic activity has caused the Aleutian Islands, a vast archipelago that runs west of the Alaska Peninsula and serves as the border between the North Pacific and the Bering Sea, to become more noisy than usual.
“There are many volcanoes in Alaska, and we usually see an average of one eruption per year,” Matthew Lowen, a research geologist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, told NBC News. “Three eruptions at the same time are not common.”
Volcano Pavlof, Bolshoi Sitkin and Semisopochnoi volcano remain under orange threat levels, which means that eruptions continue and minor ash emissions have been detected.
Volcano Pavlof is located almost 600 miles from Anchorage. Its nearest town is Cold Bay, a small community of less than 120 people. Closer to the center of the Aleutian Islands, Bolshoi Sitkin is located about 25 miles northeast of the city of Adak.
Volcano Semisopochnoi, meanwhile, is located on an uninhabited island that forms the easternmost landmass in the United States. Although the island is part of the western chain of the Aleutian Islands, it is in the Eastern Hemisphere “on its way to Russia,” Lowen said.
The volcanic islands that make up the so-called Aleutian Arc are part of a horseshoe-shaped zone that can be traced along the edge of the Pacific Ocean, where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, this region is seismically and volcanically active as it sits at the edges of several tectonic plates that continually collide and slam into each other.
Although Pavlov, Bolshoy Sitkin and Semisopochnoi are located in remote parts of the Aleutian Islands, they can create ash clouds that are dangerous for air travel.
“The Aleutian arc is located between North America and Asia, so we have a lot of air travel, and the ash is very dangerous for aircraft,” Lowen said. “We always pay attention to the ash of our volcanoes in Alaska.”
Lowen said it has been at least seven years since three volcanoes erupted simultaneously in Alaska, and recent unrest is forcing the Alaska Volcano Observatory to actively monitor.
“It keeps us on the alert,” he said. “This is definitely an exciting and stressful time for us.”
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