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Report on Pavlof (United States) — May 1986


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 5 (May 1986)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Pavlof (United States) Strombolian activity feeds lava flow; seismicity increases

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1986. Report on Pavlof (United States) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 11:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198605-312030


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Airplane pilots reported occasional ash emission through early June. Seismicity had decreased to background levels by 26 April but began to increase again in late May and remained vigorous as of mid-June. On 14-15 June, T. Miller observed Strombolian activity feeding a lava flow from a new vent on the E side of the cone.

J. Reeder provided additional observations of the 16-18 April eruption clouds and reports of continuing minor ash emission. On 16 April at 1117, Reeve Aleutian Airways Captain Edward Livingston noted a white steam plume rising to 4.6 km altitude over Pavlof. About noon the next day, MarkAir Captain Ray Wells reported a dark gray plume over Pavlof that rose to 4.9 km altitude and drifted SW over the Pacific Ocean. On 18 April at about 1130, Reeve Aleutian Captain Lee Goch saw a plume at 3 km altitude that was again drifting over the Pacific Ocean. At 1743, a jetliner crew reported to FAA Flight Control that a plume at 15.2 km altitude was drifting NE.

Weather prevented further observations of the volcano until 6 May, when Goch saw a white steam plume, containing some minor swirls and streaks of gray ash, that reached 2.9 km altitude. The plume drifted NW for 1.5 km, but traces of ash could be detected several kilometers further downwind. A minor ash deposit was visible on the S flank of the volcano. At about noon on 10 May, Reeve Aleutian Flight Engineer George Wooliver observed ash on the N and NW flanks of Pavlof and the SW upper flank of Pavlof Sister, about 4.5 km NE. Pavlof was steaming weakly, emitting a white plume that rose no more than 100 m above the summit.

The USGS received reports from several airplane pilots of renewed activity on 30 May. At 1135, MarkAir and Reeve Aleutian pilots observed an eruption cloud rising to 4.5-5 km and drifting to the west. At 1523, an ash cloud reached about 3.5 km altitude and extended NE over Pavlof Bay. At 1604, the crew of another airliner reported "heavy smoke" that rose to about 6 km altitude and drifted NE. At 1723, white steam was being emitted to <3 km altitude.

John Reeder reports that on 4 June at about 1230, Goch and MarkAir Captain Clint Schoenleber observed a white plume with no visible ash that rose to 4.9 km and drifted N. On 9 June at 1200, Captain Livingston and co-pilot Don Munson saw a gray steam and ash plume drifting 40 km to the NE. Reeder noted that Livingston's 9 June photograph suggested that a pyroclastic flow had just moved down the ESE side of the volcano and that previous pyroclastic flows had advanced down the same flank. Goch's 6 May photograph and other observations suggested to Reeder that April eruptive activity had been confined to N and NE parts of the summit [see below], depositing tephra on the NE, N, and NW sides of the volcano. Goch observed only minor steaming on 10 June.

John Taber reported that seismicity began a gradual increase about 23 May, reached high levels by 28 May, remained vigorous through 15 June, then declined slightly.

During fieldwork near Pavlof 14-15 June, T. Miller observed vigorous Strombolian activity from a new upper E flank vent ~150 m below the summit. Spatter rose 200-250 m above the vent, feeding an E flank lava flow that was ~100 m wide and reached ~1,000 m elevation [see also 11:6]. The activity produced a small ash-poor plume fed at 5-10-second intervals. Adjacent to the new vent, the old crater was emitting steam and had enlarged somewhat since 1983.

While flying past the volcano on 16 June, James Dickson observed a 600-m ash and steam plume that was drifting toward the N. Reddish-brown ash fell from the plume.

Geological Summary. The most active volcano of the Aleutian arc, Pavlof is a Holocene stratovolcano that was constructed along a line of vents extending NE from the Emmons Lake caldera. Pavlof and Pavlof Sister to the NE form a dramatic pair of symmetrical, glacier-covered stratovolcanoes that overlook Pavlof and Volcano bays. Little Pavlof is a smaller cone on the SW flank of Pavlof volcano, near the rim of Emmons Lake caldera. Unlike Pavlof Sister, eruptions have frequently been reported from Pavlof, typically 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 recorded 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; T. Miller and M.E. Yount, USGS Anchorage; J. Taber, LDGO.