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Report on Anatahan (United States) — February 2005

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 30, no. 2 (February 2005)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Anatahan (United States) Remotely sensed ash plumes in February; Guam air-quality problems

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2005. Report on Anatahan (United States) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 30:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200502-284200.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


United States

16.35°N, 145.67°E; summit elev. 790 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

As discussed in our previous report (BGVN 29:12), Anatahan's third historical eruption began on 5 January 2005. Ongoing eruptions continued through at least 18 February 2005.

Anatahan lies in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) ~ 120 km N of Saipan and ~ 320 km N of Guam. The first historical eruption of Anatahan began 10 May 2003 (BGVN 28:04 and 28:05); after several hours of increasing seismicity, a phreatomagmatic eruption sent ash to over ~ 9 km (~ 30,000 feet) and deposited about 10 million cubic meters of material over the island and sea. A small craggy dome extruded in late May and was destroyed during explosions on 13 and 14 June, after which the eruption ceased. The second historical eruption began about 9 April 2004 after a week or so of increasing seismicity (BGVN 29:04). That eruption primarily comprised Strombolian explosions every minute or so and occasionally sent ash up to a few thousand feet. The eruption ended 26 July 2004.

Charles Holliday (US Airforce Weather Agency, AFWA) contributed a series of remotely sensed images showing plumes in February (table 3, figure 13). The plume in the 4 February Terra image (figure 13, top) contains a brownish tinge suggesting considerable ash. The Anatahan region was on the western edge of the Terra pass. The image contains an artifact reminiscent of Venetian blinds (commonly called the bow-tie effect), which arose due to pixel replication in the mapping/processing algorithm filling in for missing data on the edge of the scan.

Table 3. A list of some of the satellite images recording Anatahan plumes during 3-15 February 2005. Those shown with an asterisk appear in the next figure. Date and time are both UTC; for example, 04 Feb 2005 at 0105 is the date and time in UTC, in this example equivalent to 04 Feb 2005 at 1105 local time. Names affiliated with satellites are as follows: DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program), NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Courtesy of Charles Holliday, U.S. Air Force Weather Agency.

Date Time (UTC) Satellite and type of image Predominant direction of plume and comments
03 Feb 2005 2329 DMSP F16 (capturing visible data at 0.3 nanometer (nm) wavelength) Steam and vog; seen at least 95 NM (~180 km) from Anatahan, trending slightly E of S.
04 Feb 2005 *0105 NASA TERRA MODIS (250 m resolution) Steam and vog; seen for at least 100 NM (~185 km) to the S.
06 Feb 2005 0050 NASA TERRA MODIS (500 m resolution) Steam and vog; 100 NM (~185 km) trending to WSW.
06 Feb 2005 0043 NOAA 17 (visible, 0.5 nm wavelength) Steam and vog; 175 NM (~320 km) to SW.
06 Feb 2005 0335 NASA AQUA MODIS (500 m resolution) Steam and vog; 150 NM (~280 km) trending to WSW.
08 Feb 2005 2226 DMSP F15 (visible, 0.3 nm) Steam and vog; 150 NM (~280 km) trending to SW.
09 Feb 2005 0125 NASA TERRA MODIS (500 m resolution) Steam and vog to the SSW; plume length undisclosed.
09 Feb 2005 0442 NOAA 16 (visible, 0.5 nm and infrared (IR), 0.5 nm) Steam and vog; 150 NM (~280 km) trending over a sector from SW to WSW.
09 Feb 2005 2207 DMSP F16 (visible, 0.5 nm) Ash and steam for ten's of kilometers; vog at greater distances, up to at least 130 NM (240 km) WSW.
10 Feb 2005 0030 NASA TERRA MODIS (250 m resolution) Ash and steam nearer volcano, blowing S to SSW; region interpreted as vog at distances of ten's of kilometers SW of volcano.
10 Feb 2005 0052 NOAA 17 (0.5 nm) Vog visible 220 NM (~410 km) to the WSW.
10 Feb 2005 0330 NASA AQUA MODIS (500 m resolution) Ash and steam nearer volcano, blowing SW; vog at distances ~150 NM (~280 km) WSW of volcano.
10 Feb 2005 0423 NOAA 16 (IR, 0.5 nm) Ash and steam; plume blown 100 NM (185 km) to W and WSW.
10 Feb 2005 0423 NOAA 16 (visible, 0.5 nm) Ash and steam; 475 NM (967 km) trending to WSW.
10 Feb 2005 2251 DMSP F15 (visible, 0.3 nm) Ash and steam for ten's of kilometers WSW from Anatahan; vog at greater distances visible up to at least 475 NM (967 km) from the volcano.
11 Feb 2005 0110 NASA TERRA MODIS (1 km resolution) One of the longer-extended plumes identified in this set, trending SW and reaching 525 NM (~972 km) from source to identified vog near the SW corner of the image. Ash and steam to ten's of kilometers from source.
11 Feb 2005 0412 NOAA 16 (0.5 nm) Ash and steam plume that gradually broadens as it drifts WSW. The plume was ultimately identified as vog in the more distal areas. Total length identified 505 NM (936 km).
11 Feb 2005 0415 NASA AQUA MODIS (500 m resolution) Plume clearer than on most other images in this set, with few weather clouds obscuring; SW-directed plume identified as ash and steam near source; vog in distal areas to ~150 NM (~280 km).
11 Feb 2005 0702 GOES-9 (visible) Longest-extending plume of this set; ash and steam WSW of volcano; vog detected at 850 NM (~1,600 km) from Anatahan.
12 Feb 2005 0401 NOAA 16 (visible, 0.3 nm) W-directed plume with ash/steam near source, vog at 355 NM (657 km).
12 Feb 2005 2316 DMSP F16 (visible, 0.3 nm) SW-directed plume, ~140 NM long (~260 km).
13 Feb 2005 0100 NASA TERRA MODIS (500 m resolution) SW-directed plume, ~200 NM (~370 km) long.
13 Feb 2005 0124 NOAA 17 (visible, 0.5 nm) W-directed plume, ~360 NM long (~670 km).
13 Feb 2005 1229 NOAA 17 IR (0.5 nm) WNW-directed plume, 95 NM (180 km) long.
13 Feb 2005 *2303 DMSP F16 (visible, 0.3 nm) SW-directed plume, ash and steam for much of 140 NM (260 km) length (unusually clear conditions).
14 Feb 2005 0101 NOAA 17 IR (0.5 nm) Elongate ash-and-steam plume stretched SW to ~120 NM (~220 km).
14 Feb 2005 0101 NOAA 17 (visible, 0.5 nm) Ash and steam plume(s) near source; vog visible on image to over 400 NM (740 km).
14 Feb 2005 0305 NASA AQUA MODIS (250 m resolution) SSW-directed plume with ash and steam, but length undisclosed.
14 Feb 2005 0519 NOAA 16 (visible, 0.5 nm) W-directed ash-and-steam plume in the near source, vog seen ~500 NM (~930 km) to the W.
15 Feb 2005 0038 NOAA 17 (visible, 0.5 nm) Gravity waves to the W for 25 NM (~45 km); faint vog seen to ~80 km (~150 km).
15 Feb 2005 0045 NASA TERRA MODIS (500 m resolution) (Similar to above)
15 Feb 2005 0350 NASA TERRA MODIS (1 km resolution) Ash and steam ~350 NM to the W to SW; faint vog in more distal areas.
15 Feb 2005 0507 NOAA 16 (visible, 0.5 nm) Plume directed WSW stretching 345 NM (640 km).
15 Feb 2005 0812 NOAA 15 (IR, 0.5 nm) Ash and steam directed WSW stretching 175 NM (326 km).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 13. Two remotely sensed images of Anatahan plumes during February 2005 (N is upwards). (top) S-blown steam and vog on 4 February at 0105 UTC clearly identifiable to Saipan and Tinian islands; reported as the source of health problems in Guam news reports (see text). (bottom) A modest ash/steam plume in unusually clear conditions, imaged at 2303 UTC on 13 February (DMSP F16 visible) reached 260 km (140 NM). Courtesy of Charles Holliday, U.S. Air Force Weather Agency.

Randy White of the U.S. Geological Survey noted that the energy release from seismic stations monitoring Anatahan dropped to near zero on 13 February 2005, yet a monitoring microphone continued to indicate considerable acoustic-energy release. Corresponding to this, a MODIS image clearly showed ash still being emitted early on 14 February (see table 3). In other words, the seismicity failed to accurately portray the eruption's vigor.

Reporters Katie Worth and Natalie Quinata wrote in the 5 February 2005 issue of the Pacific Daily News that many students in school on Guam had been sent home after experiencing dizziness or nausea because of the foul-smelling 'vog' or volcanic smog hovering over the island from the eruption. Guam lies ~ 320 km S of Anatahan.

John Ravelo wrote a news article for the Saipan Tribune published on 15 February with the title "Anatahan ash cloud continues to hinder flights." Ravelo said that, "An aircraft coming from Manila to Saipan experienced zero visibility before landing at the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport yesterday morning, prompting the carrier's pilots to fly around the island and search for a clearer approach to the runway. The passenger aircraft landed safely at the airport, but the hazy condition delayed its arrival."

At about 0909 on 14 February, the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reported that a plume of ash extended SW of the volcano at an altitude of 4.3 km. The plume was 18-28 km wide. Later in the afternoon, the Washington VAAC reported an ash plume below an altitude of 2.7 km that extended SW of the volcano for about 460 km. The VAAC also forecasted that the plume would shift to a more westerly direction within the next 12 hours.

According to Ravelo's 15 February Saipan Tribune article, the CNMI Emergency Management Office and the U.S. Geological Survey "said in a joint report that the magnitude of the volcanic eruption declined during the past few days." During the eruption's peak on 26 January and 1 February 2005, however, the article stated that both agencies noted that the volcano sent ash to about 4.6-6.1 km altitude.

A message from Holliday filed at 0100 UTC on 17 February 2005 included a series of remarks, mainly from unnamed scientists on the scene in the field. As background prior to presenting those remarks, we note that the term 'RSAM' (real-time seismic amplitude) signifies estimates the average amplitude of ground shaking. RSAM values increase with increases in tremor amplitude or the rate of occurrence and size of earthquakes. The RSAM estimates the seismicity during intervals when many earthquakes might occur, times when rapid earthquake-magnitude assessments might become impractical. The remarks follow.

"Over the past 24 hours, the eruptive activity at Anatahan apparently continued to decline, with RSAM levels at the seismic station ANAT now only marginally above the levels recorded just before the 5 January eruption began. Microphone amplitudes have also dropped to similar levels.

"The 2003 crater floor is now essentially entirely covered by fresh lava [with] a diameter of about one kilometer. The current eruption peaked during the period between 26 January and 2 February [2005], during which the volcano sent ash as high as 15,000 to 20,000 feet a.s.l. [~ 5,000 to ~ 6,000 m] . . .. In the days following, ash blew as far as 100 nautical miles [185 km] and vog blew nearly 600 [nautical] miles [~ 1,100 km] downwind.

"The third historical eruption of Anatahan began on 5 January, after three days of precursory seismicity. On 6 January frequent strombolian explosion signals began and by the next day ash was rising to 10,000 feet [~ 3 km] and blowing 40 nautical miles [72 km] downwind. Bombs a meter in diameter were being thrown hundreds of feet in the air [ 1 foot = 0.305 m]. By January 20 explosions were occurring every 3 to 10 seconds and fresh ejecta and small lava flows had filled the innermost crater to nearly the level of the pre-2003 East Crater floor.

"The Emergency Management Office, Office of the Governor, CNMI, has placed Anatahan Island off limits until further notice and concludes that, although the volcano is not currently dangerous to most aircraft within the CNMI airspace, conditions may change rapidly, and aircraft should pass upwind of Anatahan or beyond 30 km downwind from the island and exercise due caution within 30 km of Anatahan."

Geologic Background. The elongate, 9-km-long island of Anatahan in the central Mariana Islands consists of a large stratovolcano with a 2.3 x 5 km compound summit caldera. The larger western portion of the caldera is 2.3 x 3 km wide, and its western rim forms the island's high point. Ponded lava flows overlain by pyroclastic deposits fill the floor of the western caldera, whose SW side is cut by a fresh-looking smaller crater. The 2-km-wide eastern portion of the caldera contained a steep-walled inner crater whose floor prior to the 2003 eruption was only 68 m above sea level. A submarine cone, named NE Anatahan, rises to within 460 m of the sea surface on the NE flank, and numerous other submarine vents are found on the NE-to-SE flanks. Sparseness of vegetation on the most recent lava flows had indicated that they were of Holocene age, but the first historical eruption did not occur until May 2003, when a large explosive eruption took place forming a new crater inside the eastern caldera.

Information Contacts: Charles Holliday, U.S. Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA), Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska 68113, USA; Randy White, U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025-3591 USA; Katie Worth and Natalie Quinata, Guam Pacific Daily News, P.O. Box DN, Hagatna, Guam 96932, USA (URL: http://www.guampdn.com/); John Ravelo, Saipan Tribune (15 February 2005), PMB 34, Box 10001, Saipan, MP 96950, USA (URL: http://www.saipantribune.com/); Operational Significant Event Imagery (OSEI) team, World Weather Bldg., 5200 Auth Rd Rm 510 (E/SP 22), NOAA/NESDIS, Camp Springs, MD 20748, USA (URL: https://www.nnvl.noaa.gov/); Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Satellite Analysis Branch, NOAA/NESDIS E/SP23, NOAA Science Center Room 401, 5200 Auth Road, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA (URL: http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/).