Volcanologist at Alaska's Mount Cleveland raise alert status

The Anchorage Daily NewsAugust 4, 2011 

Signs of lava at Mount Cleveland prompted volcanologists to raise their alert level Tuesday afternoon for the Aleutian Islands volcano.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory reports "heightened or escalated unrest" and the possibility of an eruption at the 5,676-foot volcano, according to the observatory's website.

Cleveland Volcano comprises the western half of Chuginidak Island, which sits about 115 miles west of Dutch Harbor and 950 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Satellite data and visual observations in late July revealed a lava dome about 140 feet in diameter growing in the volcano's crater, said volcanologist Chris Waythomas. The dome grew another 10 feet or so between Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the observatory.

"Sometimes lava domes like that can be explosive and lead to ash production," Waythomas said.

The volcano observatory raised the advisory status from "advisory" to "watch" and the aviation warning level from yellow to orange.

Cleveland is capable of blasting volcanic ash more than 20,000 feet into the sky -- a significant danger to air traffic in the vicinity -- so staff at the observatory decided to warn aviators of a possible explosive eruption, the researcher said.

Still, it's not certain that any ash-producing eruption will occur, Waythomas said.

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