It’s been a good length of time since a volcano in North America has had a significant eruption. That period has come to an end with the big blowup of a volcano in Bogoslof Island in Alaska just this Sunday, May 28. This location in the Aleutian Islands chain has already been on a close watch list by the Alaska Volcano Observatory ever since the 20th of December last year, with precautionary advisories being issued to pilots flying over that area.

Five months after these initial warnings, the Bogoslof Island volcano finally unleashed what appears to be its full power.

To that end, the AVO issued the highest level aviation warning for that airspace.

Dangerous flying

Due to the severity of the May 28 Bogoslof eruption which lasted almost an hour, ash clouds rose up to a minimum of 35,000 feet and reaching as high as 45,000 feet according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. That Sunday afternoon Jeffrey Freymueller from the University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute called for the issuance of a “code red” aviation alert, due to an increase in seismic signals as well as the multitude of detected lightning in the volcanic plumes which are significantly dangerous to passing aircraft. That's one more thing to worry about on top of the laptop ban, but this time it is due to a natural calamity.

Seeing as the Bogoslof Volcano is right underneath the common flight paths of airline routes between North America and Asia, the aviation alert is extremely vital to prevent airborne accidents from hazardous ash in midair. The US Geological Survey warns that volcanic ash can cause severe engine failure if drawn into a plane’s jet intakes.

While some aircraft can avoid ash clouds by veering around or flying above them, depending on the severity of conditions air traffic can be completely grounded for several days. The last time this prominently happened had been during the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, which halted flights all over Europe for close to a week.

Unstable condition

The volcanic island of Bogoslof has changed shape over the decades since its vents spewed new lava deposits above sea level. The Alaska Volcano Observatory has on record about eight previous eruptions there, the most recent being back in 1992.

That last activity left Bogoslof with an elongated shape. But the emergence of a new vent in 2016, the same vent that blew up May 28, saw the island being altered to now look like a hook shape encircling the volcano proper.

The AVO reports that despite the eruption Bogoslof remains in a heightened state of unrest and its condition is described as unstable. The earlier red aviation warning has also since been downgraded to orange level.