Eruption Spotted By Satellite

October 10, 1996

From about 2000 miles away, a Geophysical Institute graduate student was the first to spot the eruption of Bezymianny Volcano on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.

Research Assistant Chris Wyatt, who is working toward a master's degree in geology, discovered the eruption on satellite images during a daily inspection of the area.

Early on October 5, Wyatt noticed a white "hot" spot over a cluster of volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula on an Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer satellite image.

Since thermal-band, black-and-white AVHRR images depict the temperature of the ground, white hot spots indicate increased thermal activity. Sometimes the hot spots precede volcanic eruptions.

"I see a lot of hot spots come and go without an ash cloud forming," Wyatt said. "I watched this one carefully because it stood out from the background temperature more than in previous months."

A few hours later, Wyatt noticed the formation of a cold black cloud on satellite images above Bezymianny Volcano. He identified the cloud as an ash plume that had cooled after rising to high altitudes. At first, the volcanic plume was difficult to differentiate from surrounding atmospheric clouds, but after using a band subtraction, Wyatt was sure he had identified an eruption.

Wyatt's discovery is unique because eruptions usually are reported first by pilots, local residents, or seismologists, then searched for on satellite images.

After finding the eruption, Wyatt notified Geophysical Institute Research Assistant Professor Ken Dean, who alerted the Alaska Volcano Observatory and other authorities.

Dean and Research Assistant Craig Searcy, who is working toward a doctorate degree in geophysics, activated PUFF, a computerized ash-plume tracking model.

PUFF forecast the ash cloud would soon drift eastward into the air traffic corridor between Tokyo and Anchorage. Ash plumes are hazardous to aircraft because abrasive ash particles can cause engines to fail, windows to turn opaque, and delicate instruments to clog.

Since more than 40,000 large passenger-carrying aircraft annually fly over or near the Alaska, Aleutian and Kamchatka volcanoes, AVO immediately issued warnings about the movement of the ash plume to the Federal Aviation Administration, to the National Weather Service, and to airlines.

AVO is a joint program composed of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Geophysical Institute, and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.
-end-


University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute

Related Ash Cloud Articles from Brightsurf:

Volcanic ash could help reduce CO2 associated with climate change
University of Southampton scientists investigating ways of removing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from our atmosphere believe volcanic ash could play an important role.

Volcanic ash may have a bigger impact on the climate than we thought
Volcanic ash shuts down air traffic and can sicken people.

Using cloud-precipitation relationship to estimate cloud water path of mature tropical cyclones
Scientists find the cloud water path of mature tropical cyclones can be estimated by a notable sigmoid function of near-surface rain rate.

Ash dieback is less severe in isolated ash trees
New research published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Ecology finds that ash dieback is far less severe in the isolated conditions ash is often found in, such as forests with low ash density or in open canopies like hedges, suggesting the long term impact of the disease on Europe's ash trees will be more limited than previously thought.

Lead isotopes a new tool for tracking coal ash
Duke University scientists have developed a forensic tracer that uses lead isotopes to detect and measure coal fly ash in dust, soil and sediments.

Volcanic ash sparks a new discovery
Imagine you're getting ready to fly to your favorite vacation destination when suddenly a volcano erupts, sending massive amounts of volcanic ash into the atmosphere, and forcing the cancellation of your flight.

Ash tree species likely will survive emerald ash borer beetles, but just barely
'Lingering ash.' That's what the US Forest Service calls the relatively few green and white ash trees that survive the emerald ash borer onslaught.

Evidence of multiple unmonitored coal ash spills found in N.C. lake
Coal ash solids in sediments collected from Sutton Lake in 2015 and 2018 suggest the North Carolina lake has been contaminated by multiple coal-ash spills, most of them apparently unmonitored and unreported.

Ash dieback is predicted to cost £15 billion in Britain
A team of researchers from the University of Oxford, Fera Science, Sylva Foundation and the Woodland Trust has calculated the true economic cost of ash dieback -- and the predictions, published today in Current Biology, are staggering.

How bacteria can help prevent coal ash spills
Researchers have developed a technique that uses bacteria to produce 'biocement' in coal ash ponds, making the coal ash easier to store and limiting the risk of coal ash spills into surface waters.

Read More: Ash Cloud News and Ash Cloud Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.