Alaska volcano erupts with massive ash cloud, diverting flights

Airline Passengers Witness Volcanic Eruption

(Reuters) -- A volcano on the Alaska Peninsula erupted with little advanced warning over the weekend, spewing an ash cloud up to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) high that prompted aviation warnings across the region, scientists said on Monday.

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Mount Pavlof, one of the most active volcanoes on the peninsula, began erupting shortly after 4:00 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time on Sunday, said Jessica Larsen, coordinating scientist with the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute.

"Pavlof is known to us for having a pretty quick onset to eruptions, it doesn't always give us long precursory signals," Larsen said.

See more of the current and past eruptions in the gallery below:

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Pavlof Volcano Alaska airspace
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Alaska volcano erupts with massive ash cloud, diverting flights
The Pavlof Volcano spews ash in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska in this handout photo released to Reuters on March 28, 2016 by Alaska Volcano Observatory. (REUTERS/Royce Snapp/Alaska Volcano Observatory/Handout via Reuters)
The Pavlof Volcano spews ash in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska in this handout photo released to Reuters on March 28, 2016 by Alaska Volcano Observatory. (REUTERS/Royce Snapp/Alaska Volcano Observatory/Handout via Reuters)
A plume of smoke from Alaska's Pavlof volcano is pictured in this November 14, 2014 NASA handout satellite image obtained by Reuters November 18, 2014. By November 15, Pavlof was lofting ash plumes to an altitude of 30,000 feet (9 kilometers), high enough to disrupt commercial airline flights. (REUTERS/NASA/Handout via Reuters)
A plume of smoke from Alaska's Pavlof volcano on the lower Alaska peninsula is pictured in this November 15, 2014 NASA handout satellite image. By November 15, Pavlof was lofting ash plumes to an altitude of 30,000 feet (9 kilometers), high enough to disrupt commercial airline flights. (REUTERS/NASA/Handout via Reuters)
The Pavlof Volcano in Alaska is pictured in this May 18, 2013 NASA handout photo taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Situated in the Aleutian Arc about 625 miles (1,000 km) southwest of Anchorage, Pavlof began erupting on May 13, 2013. The volcano jetted lava into the air and spewed an ash cloud 20,000 feet (6,000 m) high. (NASA/Handout via Reuters)
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Photos on the Alaska Volcano Observatory website showed the plume towering over the icy slopes of Mount Pavlof and drifting to the northwest.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a "red" aviation alert in response to the 20,000-foot-high ash cloud, which required that flights to be re-routed. The alert could affect local and regional air traffic, as well polar routes and cargo flights from Anchorage.

Larsen said the eruption did not pose any immediate danger to nearby communities on the peninsula, which were monitoring the ash fall. The closest residential area is Cold Bay, located 37 miles (60 km) southwest of Pavlof.

There have been more than 40 eruptions from Pavlof, including between May and November of 2014, when ash plumes also triggered aviation warnings. Such events can last weeks or months.

"This 20,000-foot ash cloud is not unusual for Pavlof at all," Larsen said, adding that the highest recorded plume from the volcano was 49,000 feet.

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