Today – Earthquakes recorded near Alaska volcano dormant for 800 years
Anchorage, Alaska – Hundreds of small earthquakes have been reported near a volcano in southeastern Alaska that is believed to have been dormant for at least 800 years.
The cause of the earthquakes under Mount Edgecumbe, a volcano near Sitka similar to Mount Fuji in Japan, is unknown. However, they may not be indicative of volcanic activity, said Dave Schneider, a USGS geophysical researcher at the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage.
Mount Edgecumbe is a 3,200-foot (976 m) stratovolcano located on Kruzow Island, about 15 miles (24 km) west of Sitka. The volcano is part of a larger underwater volcanic field of lava domes and craters.
The earthquakes are somewhat unusual, he said, because tremors in the region are usually tectonic rather than volcanic.
“These are not necessarily related to volcanic activity, they may be of a tectonic nature or a combination of tectonic and volcanic,” he said. “We can’t really tell the difference at this point.”
For now, there’s no need to worry too much, Schneider said.
He said: “Volcanoes have swarms of earthquakes that do not lead to volcanic eruptions.”
The quakes, most of which were too small to be observed at multiple seismic monitoring stations, continued on Wednesday despite the reduced frequency.
“I don’t think anyone knew this was happening,” said Zack Mayville, who answered the phone at the House of Liquor in Sitka.
He said there was no damage from the earthquakes.
“We didn’t feel anything,” Mayville said. “We haven’t heard anything from anyone, so we’re all fine.”
The Volcano Observatory conducted a retrospective analysis of seismic data near Mount Edgecumbe, which showed a small number of earthquakes starting in 2020.
There have been about 40 earthquakes that have been in the area in the past two years, about one or two per month, much less than was recorded this week.
“You would expect lots and lots of earthquakes that would be observed before any volcanic activity if they happen,” Schneider said. “Earthquake activity is our best indicator of what’s going on there, and that’s something we’ll be watching closely.”
Alaska has about 90 volcanoes that have been active in the past 10,000 years, he said. Most are remote and not usually located near a population center such as Sitka, which has a population of about 8,500.
There is no written record of the eruption of Mount Edgecumbe, but he said there is an oral history of Tlingit about small eruptions about 800 years ago.
The last eruption of Mount Edgecombe was preserved in the geological record about 4,500 years ago.
There is also evidence of a large eruption 13,000 to 14,500 years ago that deposited up to 3 feet (1 m) of ash on what is now Sitka, while 98 feet (30 m) fell on Kruzov Island.
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