Sunday, February 1, 2009

It's gonna blow (maybe)!

Things are pretty slow at the National Hurricane Center these days (at least as far as Atlantic tropical storm activity is concerned), but that doesn't mean there's nothing going on in the natural world or that no one on the web is watching. For example, the Alaska Volcano Observatory, sitting in one of the most seismically and volcanically active parts of the world, monitors dozens of volcanoes up and down the Aleutian islands, on the Kamchatka peninsula and elsewhere in the area.

At this writing, Mount Redoubt is on orange (watch) status, meaning that it's not erupting at the moment, or at least not very much, but things could change at any moment. Fortunately the effects were fairly limited in 1989, the last time this happened. Nearby towns got a sprinkling of ash -- a significant hassle, but not a major hazard (*).

Alaskans don't seem too worked up about it, and with that in mind I don't feel too bad about peeking in on the webcam from time to time to see if something's happening. That's kind of the point of webcams, isn't it? If you feel curious yourself, just bear in mind that Alaska is probably in a different time zone (if you're actually reading this from Alaska, I'm guessing you've probably already heard about the site), and days are short up there this time of year. If you pop in at random, the image may be a bit dark and indistinct.

(*) The more serious hazard is to air traffic. During the 1989 eruption a KLM jet lost power in all four engines and fell two miles before the crew could get it flying again. As I understand it, there are more safeguards these days to prevent planes from flying into ash clouds to begin with.

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