The US needs to seriously beef up its volcano monitoring
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Maria Cantwell of Washington introduced a bill to establish a National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System. Now, this isn’t the first time the senators have have attempted to establish a system to coordinate and update the monitoring of the United States’ many volcanoes, but it is a very timely bill. In December, the Bogoslof volcano in Alaska unexpectedly produced a violent explosive eruption—and continues to release occasional blasts that reach over 10 kilometers above the volcano. Explosions like that in the Aleutians can be a hazard for air and sea traffic in the area, but if such eruptions happened in the Cascades or Yellowstone, you could imagine the hazards.
Bogoslof is mostly off the grid when it comes to volcano monitoring. It has no seismometers, no webcams, no real surveillance. Even now, after almost two months of eruptions, the Alaska Volcano Observatory relies on data from seismometers on other islands, reports from pilots and local residents, and remote sensing data from weather satellites to tell what’s happening at Bogoslof. This is far from ideal when you’re trying to keep people and property safe. Ideally, seismometers and other instruments at the volcano would measure the small changes in volcanic tremor that can give the first hints of an eruption in the next days to minutes.