Report on Pavlof (United States) — October 1986

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 10 (October 1986)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland

Pavlof (United States) Ash emission and lava fountaining

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1986. Report on Pavlof (United States). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 11:10. Smithsonian Institution.

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United States

55.417°N, 161.894°W; summit elev. 2493 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Airplane pilots reported that ash emissions and lava fountaining resumed in early November. No activity had been reported since mid-September. Observers named below are Reeve Aleutian Airways pilots; other reports are from the FAA.

The start time of the eruption is not known, but on 30 October a clear view of the snow-covered volcano showed that it remained inactive, without vapor emissions. No other observations of Pavlof are known until 1100 on 6 November when activity was first reported. At 1130 Lee Goch and Don Munson observed a 2750 m-high plume of dark ash and white vapor drifting more than 40 km to the NE. An incandescent lava fountain (about 10 m high) emerged from a vent just SE of the summit. Two fresh-looking, gray-black, linear, flow-like features, 120 m and 50 m wide, extended about 1/3 of the way down the SE and NW flanks. Neither feature emitted any steam, and both were free of snow. The rest of the volcano remained covered with white snow. At 2045 a pilot reported that lava fountaining was continuing at the SE summit vent.

On 10 November at 1135 James Fredenhagen and Ken Gendron observed bubbling incandescent lava and a 10-m-high, 6-m-wide fountain in a crater on the upper SE flank, ~120 m below the summit. A vertical ash and steam plume rose to ~300 m above the vent.

Fredenhagen did not see incandescent lava during a 12 November flight at 1140, but vapor and ash were released from the SE summit-area vent and drifted eastward. Earlier that day he passed through a haze layer at 1,500-1,800 m altitude during his approach to Sand Point, 90 km to the east. A fissure-like feature extending from the summit to at least halfway down the SE flank appeared to be emitting black ash and depositing it nearby. No incandescent material or vapor was visible in the fissure.

On [13] November Edward Livingston reported that grayish-black ash deposits covered the entire SE side of the volcano. At 1200 on 17 November a 3,600-3,900-m-high plume issued from the vent below the SE crater. Black ash pulses occurred at 5-8-minute intervals and winds blew the ash SE in a 70-km-long cloud. By afternoon (around 1400-1630) the FAA reported that the plume had grown to 4,500 m height.

On 18 November the FAA reported that the semi-continuous plume was 4200 m high between 1000 and 1030. At 1512 an image from the NOAA 9 polar orbiting satellite recorded a weak plume extending 50-60 km N. The FAA has warned pilots in the area not to go below 3750 m and to avoid the vicinity of the volcano.

Geologic Background. The most active volcano of the Aleutian arc, Pavlof is a 2519-m-high Holocene stratovolcano that was constructed along a line of vents extending NE from the Emmons Lake caldera. Pavlof and its twin volcano to the NE, 2142-m-high Pavlof Sister, form a dramatic pair of symmetrical, glacier-covered stratovolcanoes that tower above Pavlof and Volcano bays. A third cone, Little Pavlof, is a smaller volcano on the SW flank of Pavlof volcano, near the rim of Emmons Lake caldera. Unlike Pavlof Sister, Pavlof has been frequently active in historical time, typically producing Strombolian to Vulcanian explosive eruptions from the summit vents and occasional lava flows. The active vents lie near the summit on the north and east sides. The largest historical eruption took place in 1911, at the end of a 5-year-long eruptive episode, when a fissure opened on the N flank, ejecting large blocks and issuing lava flows.

Information Contacts: J. Reeder, ADGGS; M.E. Yount, USGS Anchorage.