Photo in the News: Alaska's Augustine Volcano Erupts

Photo: Augustine Volcano
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January 13, 2006—It's been 20 years since Alaskans have felt its rumble or the grit of its ash, but Augustine Volcano has roared back to life, erupting three times in the past three days.

The volcano, located on an uninhabited island 180 miles (290 kilometers) south of Anchorage, erupted twice on Wednesday, sending plumes of ash into the atmosphere.

A third, larger eruption occurred early this morning.

According to Rick Wessels, a geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Fairbanks, the first two flare-ups were preceded by hours of low-grade earthquakes, hinting at activity under the Earth's surface. But this morning's eruption came with little forewarning.

"This one gave us minutes of warning that something changed," he told the Associated Press.

At least Alaskans will be spared the blankets of ash that Augustine has rained over nearby towns during previous eruptions.

In 1976 and 1986, the volcano vaulted clouds of ash—a mixture of rock, crystals, and volcanic glass—over Anchorage, coating streets and disrupting air traffic.

This time around, Wessels said, Augustine's exhaust is thinner and less likely to accumulate.

"It looks like it won't leave much in the way of perceivable dust," he said.

Blake de Pastino

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