Active Alaska Volcanoes That'll Blow Your Mind
By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley
The amount of active Alaska volcanoes is actually quite staggering. You might be surprised to learn that Alaska contains over 130 volcanoes and volcanic fields, all of which have been active in the last two-million years. Of these, around 90 have been active just within the last 10,000 years. With many expected to someday erupt again. Approximately 50 of these have been active since roughly 1760. In the big scheme of things, active Alaska volcanoes are said to make up over three-quarters of the total volcanoes in the United States that have erupted just within the last 200 years. In just the last 40 years, Alaska has averaged more than two eruptions per year. Today, there are just around 40 active Alaska volcanoes. Flickr - jomilo75 The Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Chain are where most of the volcanic eruptions occur in the Last Frontier. Novarupta’s eruption from 1912 is one of the most notable in Alaska state history. Mount Katmai, Mount Redoubt, and Mount Spurr are some other very recognizable volcanoes that have erupted in Alaska. Check out our list below of some of Alaska’s most active volcanoes and be sure to let us know if you have any personal memories of these eruptions happening. Flickr - NOAA Photo Library
1: Pavlof Volcano PD-USGov-FWS Erupted at least 36 times in the last 30 years. This stratovolcano is located in the Aleutian Range of the Alaska Peninsula. For years, it has been known as one of the most active volcanoes in the entire United States. In the last several decades alone, it has erupted in 1980, 1981, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1996, 1997, 2007, 2013, 2014 (twice), and 2016.
2: Akutan Peak Wikimedia Commons Mount Akutan is located in the eastern side of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, on the west side of Akutan Island. At the summit of the volcano, there is a 1.2-mile wide caldera (formed during an uncanny eruption over 1600 years ago) that has a cinder cone, which has been the location of many historic and frequent eruptions. The Alaska Volcano Observatory has recorded around 33 confirmed eruptions of this stratovolcano, thus making it home to some of the most eruptions ever in Alaska.
3: Shishaldin Volcano C. Nye, Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys Wow, this volcano is quite the looker! Considered to be “moderately active” - Mount Shishaldin jolts 9,373 above sea level and is the highest mountain peak across all of Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain. It is considered to be the very most symmetrical “cone-shaped + glacier-clad” mountain on planet earth. Located on Unimak Island, Shishaldin is often compared to Mount Fuji in Japan because of its incredible symmetrical contour lines, said to be “nearly perfect” circles above 6,500 feet. The Alaska Volcano Observatory has confirmed 26 total eruptions of Shishaldin Volcano, with the most recent being on January 3, 2020 when an ash cloud erupted out and reached heights around 27,000 feet. Then again on January 19, 2020, another massive ash cloud came out of the volcano. It was very active beginning in July 2019 and throughout the remainder of the year, then previously back in 2004 and 1999.
4: Mount Cleveland Wikimedia Commons photo by USGS This nearly-symmetrical stratovolcano is located at the western end of Chuginadak Island in the Fox Islands of Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain. Chuginadak Island was named by Aleutian natives after their “fire goddess” who they thought inhabited the volcano. Mount Cleveland, named after former-president Grover Cleveland back in 1984 by the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, is approximately 5,675 feet high and considered to be a very active volcano. Reports indicate that Mount Cleveland has erupted around 25 times in the last 230 years. The most recent eruptions were in 2009, 2010 (two times), 2011, 2016, and 2017.
5: Mount Veniaminof M.E. Yount U.S. Geological Survey Wikimedia Commons One of the highest volcanoes in Alaska at 7075 feet, Mount Veniaminof is a stratovolcano located on the Alaska Peninsula. It was the site of a massive “colossal VEI 6” eruption somewhere around 1750 BC. From that explosion, a very large caldera was formed. A glacier covers a large part of this volcano and fills most of the caldera. Since 1930, this volcano (named after a Russian Orthodox missionary priest and prominent bishop in Russia), has erupted around 18 times. The last eruption started on September 3, 2018 when magma broke through the summit and lava came pouring down the slopes of the mountain. By November 20, 2018, an ash plume reached heights around 20,000 feet prompting an ashfall warning in the town of Perryville, Alaska (located on the south shore of the Alaska Peninsula).
6: Mount Okmok Wikimedia Commons Said to be one of the most active volcanoes on Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain, Mount Okmok has an almost perfectly circular caldera that is roughly 500-800 meters deep and 8-10 KM in diameter. The main caldera was formed over 2000 years ago, and several eruptions from vents on the caldera floor have since produced an uncanny variety of cones, craters, and lava flows. The last eruption was back in 2008. It has erupted around 14 total times to date.
7: Makushin Volcano Photo from Alaska Volcano Observatory at University of Alaska This is an ice-covered stratovolcano located on UnAlaska Island in Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain. With an elevation of 2,036 feet, this is said to be a moderately active volcano with its last eruption occurring in 1995. Over the last several thousand years it has erupted around two-dozen times in total. There are several studies that happened between July 1996 through August 2000 in which roughly 176 minor earthquakes were recorded at 0.1 - 3.2 on the richter scale, averaging about 2-3 times a month.
8: Gareloi Volcano USGS - McGimsey R.G. The Gareloi Volcano has an elevation of 1573 meters and is quite unique in that it has two summits. At its base, the volcano is actually 6 miles by 5 miles. It is located on Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain. There is a huge fumarole field on the crater headwall of the Gareloi Volcano, which is essentially an opening in the planet’s crust which emits gases and steam including sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and more. There was lava flows from a 1980’s eruption that coated the south flank of the crater on Gareloi. The Alaska Volcano Observatory reports that Gareloi has erupted at least 10 times.
9: Bogoslof Volcano Alaska Volcano Observatory Bogoslof Volcano located on Bogoslof Island in the Alaska’s Bering Sea, is mostly considered a “submarine” stratovolcano. It is located about 61 miles northwest of Dutch Harbor. It rises around 6000-feet from the floor of the sea, but it is only about 300-feet above sea level at its very highest point. Because of wave action and consistent eruptive activity, Bogoslof Volcano has changed shape vastly since the 1700’s when it was first mapped. It erupted in 1992 then again and most recently in 2017. Alaska Volcano Observatory reports that it has erupted at least nine times in total.
10: Great Sitkin Volcano Chiefhuggybear via Wikimedia Commons Views of Great Sitkin are abundantly clear and spectacular from the historic town of Adak, located on Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain. The volcano is located on Great Sitkin Island, a part of the Andreanof Islands, between Adak and Atka. Great Sitkin Volcano is roughly 5,710 feet high and the island itself is only about 11 miles long and 10.5 miles wide. The Alaska Volcano Observatory reported as of 2015 that this volcano has erupted around eight times total.
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