ALASKA VOLCANO PHOTO: Hole Now Football Field Size

Alaska volcano picture -- Redoubt
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February 3, 2009—Volcanic smoke and gas from two new holes eat through snow and ice high on Alaska's Redoubt Volcano on Saturday—one of them (left) about the size of a football field.

"Things are shifting" on, and in, the 10,197-foot (3,108-meter) volcano—considered the ninth most dangerous in the U.S.—said geologist Kristi Wallace of the Alaska Volcano Observatory, who was on a survey flight over the two big fumaroles yesterday (Redoubt Volcano satellite map).

Surrounding ice is melting rapidly, and the gases have now been confirmed to include carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide—adding to evidence that a magma chamber is creeping upward, she said.

What's more, Wallace and colleagues are now convinced new magma from deep in the Earth has entered the system.

As a result, there's now a "greater likelihood" the volcano, which is about 106 miles (170 kilometers) from Anchorage, will explode in days or weeks, she told National Geographic News today.

"It's always possible it could erupt at any time," she added.

Should the magma find a way out, expect an explosion—though area Alaskans are girding for little more than a dusting of ash.

Airplanes, though, may be wise to steer clear for now—a Redoubt eruption in 1989 temporarily flamed out the engines an airliner, which fell 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) before pilots could restore power. (See volcano safety tips.)

—Ted Chamberlain

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