311010, 312010, 313010, 314010, 315013

(was 1101, 1102, 1103, 1104, 1105)
Alaska Volcano Observatory
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
4200 University Drive
Anchorage, AK 99508-4667

Telephone : (1) 907-786-7403
Telefax : (1) 907-786-7425
Scientist in Charge: Michelle Coombs 
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Websites :

University of Alaska Geophysical Institute (UAFGI)
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775

Telephone : (1) 907-474-7282
Telefax : (1) 907-474-5882
Scientist :
John Eichelberger
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Website : www.gi.alaska.edu

Alaska State Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys
794 University Ave., Suite 200
Fairbanks, AK 99709

Telephone : (1) 907-451-5000
Telefax : (1) 907-451-5050
State Liason: Chris Nye
Email :
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Website : wwwdggs.dnr.state.ak.us./


Michelle Coombs, USGS
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Coordinating Scientist:

John Eichelberger, UAF-GI
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State Liasion:

Christopher J. Nye (ADGGS)
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Scientific Staff ( including many part-time AVO):


John C. Eichelberger (UAFGI)
Thomas P. Miller (USGS)
Christopher J. Nye (ADGGS)
Christina A. Neal (USGS)
Terry E.C. Keith (USGS- Menlo)
Robert G. McGimsey (USGS)
James Beget (UAF)
Wes Hildreth (USGS- Menlo)
Judy Fierstein (USGS- Menlo)
Richard Moore (USGS)
Vicki McConnell (UAFGI)

Volcanic Ash/Aircraft Safety:

Thomas P. Miller (USGS)
Terry E.C. Keith (USGS- Menlo)
Christina A. Neal (USGS)

Liasion to Russian volcanologists:

Thomas P. Miller (USGS)


Stephen R. McNutt (UAFGI)
John A. Power (USGS)
Seth Moran (USGS)
John F. Paskievitch (USGS)
William Hammond (USGS)
John C. Lahr (USGS- Golden)
Guy Tytgat (UAFGI)
John Benoit (UAFGI)
Arthur Jolly (UAFGI)
Scott Stihler (UAFGI)


Dan Dzurisin (USGS- CVO)
Elliot Endo (USGS- CVO)
Eugene Iwatsubo (USGS- CVO)
Thomas Murray (USGS)
Jeff Freymuller (UAFGI)


John F. Paskievitch (USGS)
Thomas Murray (USGS)
Steve Estes (UAFGI)
John Benivenito (UAFGI)
Timothy Plucinski (USGS)

Computer Systems:

Mitch Robinson (UAFGI)
James Haga (USGS)
Gail Davidson (ADGGS)

Remote Sensing:

Ken Dean (UAFGI)
David Schneider (USGS)
Jonathan Dehn (UAFGI)
Kevin Engle (UAFGI)

Photography/Photo Archives/Video:

Robert G. McGimsey (USGS)
Christina Neal (USGS)
Joe Dorava (USGS)

Fluid Geochemistry/Hydrothermal Alteration:

Terrence M. Gerlach (USGS- CVO)
Terry E.C. Keith (USGS- Menlo)
Christopher J. Nye (ADGGS)

Hydrologic Studies:

Christopher Waythomas (USGS)
Joe Dorava (USGS)
Dennis C. Trabant (USGS)

Computer Data Base and Drafting:

Steve Schilling (USGS- CVO)
Gail Davidson (ADGGS)
Jackie McIntyre (USGS)
Tracey Felger (USGS)


Virginia Shepard (USGS)
Jean Sobolik (UAFGI)


The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) is a joint program of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAFGI), and the State of Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (ADGGS).

AVO is a cooperative organization that uses federal, state and university resources to monitor and study Alaska's more than 40 hazardous volcanoes, to predict and record eruptive activity and to implement public safety measures. AVO presently focuses on the Cook Inlet, Peninsula and Central Aleutian volcanoes in the region of Alaska's greatest population and with important commercial international air transportation, oil and gas production, commercial fishing industry and tourism. AVO was formally established in 1988 in response to the 1986 eruption of Augustine volcano and in time to warn of the 1989 eruption of Redoubt. Most recently AVO successfully monitored and notified the public of the 1992 eruption of Spurr volcano located only 125 km west of Anchorage and the 1994 explosive eruption of Klyuchevskoi volcano, Kamchatskii, Russia, whose large ash cloud entered international air routes. On average, three to five Alaskan volcanoes erupt each year. Scientific investigations and monitoring logistics of Alaskan volcanoes are very expensive because there are no roads to access any of the Alaskan volcanoes; work must be done with aircraft support but, locally charter boats may be used.

AVO has three primary objectives:

1. Monitoring, principally with real-time seismic networks supplemented by geodesy, site visits, slow-scan TV, geochemical, hydrological, airborne spectrographic and satellite observations.

2. Communication to disseminate public safety information. This component involves general education concerning volcanic hazards and timely warnings of impending eruptions and the areas these eruptions will impact.

3. Basic geological, geochemical and geophysical investigations to determine the history, physical characteristics and eruptive mechanisms of Alaskan volcanic systems, as a guide to monitoring future activity.


AVO consists of a volcano monitoring, research and crisis center at the USGS facility in Anchorage, a UAFGI and USGS seismic recording and analysis center in Fairbanks along with petrologic research facilities and ancillary laboratories and offices shared by UAFGI and ADGGS in Fairbanks and at USGS facilities in Anchorage, Vancouver, WA, and Menlo Park, CA. Managerial responsibility for AVO rests with the USGS Scientist-in-Charge and the UAFGI Coordinating Scientist.

Scientist-in-Charge (SIC), AVO-Anchorage

The SIC is based at the office of the USGS in Anchorage, Alaska. During periods of routine, non-crisis, operation, the SIC coordinates all AVO monitoring, hazards assessment and information dissemination. The SIC ensures that the monitoring and hazards data are adequately analyzed and periodically reviewed, that monitoring and hazards assessments are conducted efficiently, effectively, and thoroughly, and that accurate and timely hazards assessments and supporting scientific information are issued to all concerned parties, including local, state, and federal officials, and to the public. The SIC also ensures that AVO activities in Alaska are summarized in the form of reports and distributed in a timely manner.

Coordinating Scientist, AVO-Fairbanks

Under routine monitoring conditions, the Coordinating Scientist, based at the UAFGI in Fairbanks, acts as principal liaison between the UAFGI and ADGGS in Fairbanks and the SIC in Anchorage. The Coordinating Scientist is responsible for ensuring the timely communication of monitoring and scientific information gathered at the UAFGI and/or ADGGS to the SIC, as well as producing a summary of AVO activities in the form of a bimonthly report. The Coordinating Scientist confers with the SIC prior to issuance of routine updates volcanic hazard or eruption notifications.


During periods of routine, non crisis activity, the role of AVO is to coordinate a volcano monitoring program including interpretation of monitoring data, gathering basic geologic data on Alaskan volcanoes and developing hazard assessments of Alaskan volcanoes. Under conditions of heightened volcanic activity, the crisis center at AVO-Anchorage becomes directly responsible for all AVO activities concerning the emergency and is the principal point of contact for government agencies, the media, and public regarding information on volcanic activity and hazards assessment.

Seismically Instrumented Volcanoes

AVO is expanding its seismic monitoring capabilities during 1996 and 1997 to include selected Peninsula and Central Aleutian volcanoes that posed potential ash cloud hazards to large aircraft. Geologic mapping and hazards assessments are being done to better evaluate the type of eruption to be expected in order to give appropriate warnings.

AVO has a program of real-time seismic monitoring at four Cook Inlet volcanoes, Mt. Spurr (Crater Peak), Redoubt, Iliamna, and Augustine. In addition, AVO employs a system to detect volcanically-induced lightning, conducts periodic observational overflights and/or landings as weather and volcanic conditions permit, and obtains intermittent airborne sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide measurements. For some volcanoes, AVO has remote, real-time video capability (Redoubt, Spurr, Iliamna) and, although still experimental, near real-time deformation monitoring (Augustine).The continuous recording of earthquake activity at Cook Inlet volcanoes, in combination with other monitoring techniques, usually allows AVO to warn of the possibility of a volcanic eruption hours to weeks in advance and, during business hours and periods of 24-hour duty, to issue notification of an ash-producing eruption, usually within 10 minutes of onset of eruption.

Unmonitored Volcanoes

At the present time, AVO has no monitoring instrumentation on approximately 17 active Alaskan volcanoes. AVO relies principally on pilot reports (via FAA), satellite imagery (with NWS), and observations from local observers including village residents, military, US Coast Guard, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and fishing vessels to detect and monitor eruptions on unmonitored volcanoes.


Volcano Hazards Monitoring, Forecasting, Eruption Notification

AVO is constantly working to improve methods of communication with the public, including disseminating information through Federal Aviation Administration, National Weather Service, Alaska Department of Emergency Services, and local military bases, and notifying the Governor, State Senators and the House Representative and others. Anchorage has sustained major economic losses during each of the Cook Inlet volcanic eruptions due to tephra fall on the city. Losses are in large part related to temporary closure of Anchorage International Airport, contamination of potable water supply, and cleanup throughout the city. Anchorage handles more air cargo than any other airport in the U.S and is thus critical to the nation's economy. In additional, major air routes to Europe and the Orient pass over the Aleutian volcanic arc. Modern jet aircraft are particularly susceptible to engine damage if an ash cloud is encountered.

AVO interacts with the Institute of Volcanic Geology and Geochemistry (IVGG) in Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka to warn and notify of ash-producing eruptions from Kamchatkan volcanoes which will impact air traffic routes over the North Pacific area. Tom Miller is the Russian contact and a member of the Kamchatkan Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT).


Studies of volcanic processes (including magmatic and eruption processes) are carried out along the Aleutian volcanic arc which includes a variety of volcano types and compositions. Among these are calderas, stratovolcanoes, and cones; compositions, though dominantly andesite, range from basalt to rhyolite. The largest eruption of the 20th century occurred in June 1912 when Novarupta in Katmai National Park on the Alaska Peninsula erupted approximately 13 km3 (DRE) in a 60 hour period.


Geologic mapping and hazards mapping is in progress on some of the dangerous volcanoes; a few are nearing publication. General mapping of the more significant volcanoes was done in the late 1940's and some are included in the Alaska Mineral Resource Appraisal Program mapping. More detailed maps specific to volcanology and hazards are in progress in order to be able to assess expected eruption types and affects. Petrologic studies, including electron microprobe chemical analyses, are being carried out on a few selected volcanoes. Investigation and correlation of tephras from Alaskan volcanoes, and in the Western Aleutians, of Kamchatkan and Alaskan volcanoes, is under way.


The four active volcanoes in the Cook Inlet region (Spurr, Redoubt, Iliamna and Augustine), the Katmai-Novarupta-Trident-Mageik-Martin volcanic complex and selected Central Aleutian volcanoes (Akutan, Pavlof, Makushin, Dutton, Shishaldin and Aniakchak) are seismically monitored and the signals telemetered in real time to Anchorage and Fairbanks. Seismology with real-time recording is an important tool, along with satellite remote sensing, for detecting unrest and analyzing the possibility of eruption in order to give advance warning.


Ground deformation studies are carried out on Augustine volcano in the Cook Inlet by specialists from Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO). Augustine erupts frequently, most recently in 1986, and, since it is an island, is an excellent target for deformation research relating to forecasting volcanic eruption. Crustal strain investigations using the Global Positioning System (GPS) measure rapid plate motion along the Aleutian volcanic arc for the purpose of interpreting the relation between volcanism and regional tectonic strain. Investigators from CVO and Menlo Park have regional networks established in Shumagin, Katmai, and Cook Inlet areas and a local network in the Katmai-Novarupta area. SAR interferometry investigations are being conducted on selected areas by UAFGI personnel.

Volcanic Gas Monitoring

Airborne measurements of volcanic gas emissions of SO(using COSPEC) and CO2 (using LICOR) are done by fixed-wing aircraft on Cook Inlet volcanoes in connection with seismic unrest or eruption. As funding permits, the four active Cook Inlet volcanoes are measured at least once a year for background data.

Fluid Geochemistry

Thermal spring water and fumarolic gas sampling is done as logistics permit. A large data base of locations and analyses has been developed by the ADGGS in their search for geothermal potential in the Aleutian arc.

Hydrologic Hazards Associated with Volcanic Eruptions

USGS Water Resources Division personnel at AVO measure, monitor and carry out research on debris avalanches, lahars and floods associated with volcanic eruptions. Most of the Cook Inlet volcanoes have glaciers or ice fields. These have major hazards potential for the villages, industrial and military facilities located in the Aleutian arc. An example is the Drift River oil terminal which was in the path of major debris flows from the Redoubt volcano in 1989-1990, but was fortunately leveled to a level such that damage was minimal.

Remote Sensing and Volcanic Tephra Plume Tracking

Explosive eruption columns come under the influence of meteorological phenomena. Downwind fallout can affect areas hundreds of km from the vent. The finer particles of the column become an ash cloud that can be carried, in the cases of Redoubt and Spurr eruptions, thousands of miles across the conterminous US and Canada. These clouds are particularly dangerous to jet aircraft. The UAFGI does research on ash-cloud projections having recently developed a computer modeling program (PUFF) for creating plots of a potential ash cloud path from a volcanic eruption. Research on the use of satellite remote sensors for detecting changes in temperatures (hot spots) on potentially active volcanoes and detecting and tracking of ash clouds is done at AVO.

Photographic Measurements

Various photographic methods are applied to AVO monitoring and recording of routine volcanic appearance and eruptions. Video recorders are commonly used during overflights of any volcano.

WWW site: http://www.avo.alaska.edu/

AVO's web site carries current information on Alaska volcanic activity and investigations of AVO scientists, as well as background information on Alaskan volcanoes.


AVO personnel respond through the USGS Volcano Hazards Program as needed to volcanic eruptions world wide, for example, the Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines during 1991 and the eruption of Montserrat during 1995.

Any use of trade names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Geological Survey.