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Report on Novarupta (United States) — September 2003


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 28, no. 9 (September 2003)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Novarupta (United States) Strong winds resuspend old ash deposits, causing a large plume and distant ashfall

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Novarupta (United States) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 28:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200309-312180


United States

58.27°N, 155.157°W; summit elev. 841 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

According to the National Weather Service, strong winds in the Katmai area on 21 September 2003 picked up old, loose volcanic ash and carried it E. Reports of minor ashfall were reported from Kodiak Island, ~ 100 km from Katmai. This phenomenon was not the result of volcanic activity and no eruption occurred.

Andrea Steffke of the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, reported a relatively large ash cloud observed in satellite images coming from the Katmai area on 21 September 2003. The cloud was first seen in satellite imagery (AVHRR, GOES, and MODIS) extending ~ 69 km to the SE. The maximum temperature difference observed was -1.46°C. Dave Schneider of the Alaska Volcano Observatory reported on 22 September 2003 that at its greatest extent the cloud was detectable for ~ 400 km. It was initially observed by an overflying (high-altitude) jet, and subsequently identified in split-window images from AVHRR, MODIS, and GOES satellites. Additional pilot reports placed the cloud top at ~ 2.1 km altitude.

The Katmai Group of volcanoes are seismically monitored by AVO, so it was possible to quickly confirm that an eruption had not taken place. SIGMETS were issued by the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) for this event and an AVO Information Release was distributed that indicated that this cloud of re-suspended ash was potentially hazardous to aircraft. This event is unusual in its intensity and extent of transport. The Katmai region is characterized by frequent high winds that can be strong enough to re-suspend large (several centimeters in size) pumice fragments, yet these events typically don't produce large, extensive airborne ash clouds.

Geological Summary. Novarupta, the least topographically prominent volcano in the Katmai area, was formed during a major eruption in 1912. This eruption was the world's largest during the 20th century and produced a voluminous rhyolitic airfall tephra and the renowned Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes (VTTS) ash flow. At the end of the eruption a small, 65-m-high, 400-m-wide lava dome grew to an elevation of 841 m within the source vent of the VTTS ashflow, a 2-km-wide area of subsidence NW of Trident volcano. The NE side of the Falling Mountain lava dome of the Trident volcanic cluster, as well as Broken Mountain and Baked Mountain, was removed by collapse of the Novarupta depression, which is marked by radial and scalloped arcuate fractures. Much larger collapse took place at Katmai volcano, 10 km to the east, where a 3 x 4 km wide caldera formed in response to magma reservoir drainage toward Novarupta.

Information Contacts: Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), a cooperative program of the U.S. Geological Survey, 4200 University Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508-4667, USA (URL: http://www.avo.alaska.edu/), the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, PO Box 757320, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7320, USA, and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, 794 University Ave., Suite 200, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA.