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Two Aleutian volcanoes on watch for potential eruption

The summit of Takawangha, photographed in 2003.
Alaska Volcano Observatory
The summit of Takawangha, photographed in 2003.

Two western Aleutian volcanoes are showing signs of unrest, signaling the potential for an eruption in the coming days or weeks.

Tanaga and Takawangha Volcanoes are about 60 miles west of Adak. Earthquake activity started increasing near Tanaga last Saturday, with Takawangha following Wednesday, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

“It certainly appears that there's magma moving at a shallow level beneath the volcanoes,” said U.S. Geological Survey Geologist Tim Orr. “But it's uncertain right now if they will erupt — or which one will erupt.”

Tanaga and Takawangha are 5 miles apart on uninhabited Tanaga Island.

Due to the volcanoes' remoteness and close proximity to one another, records of their historical eruptions aren’t perfectly clear. Tanaga’s last recorded eruption was in 1914. There are no recorded historical eruptions at Takawangha, but scientists say it’s possible some eruptions attributed to Tanaga may have actually come from Takawangha.

Orr said the observatory is monitoring the volcanoes’ current activity by satellite, and through reports from people passing by.

“We don't really have eyes on the volcano, except from space,” said Orr. “It's possible that people in the area — mariners or pilots in the area — might spot something happening and report it to us. We rely on a lot of different sources to determine whether a volcano has erupted.”

If the volcanoes erupt, Orr said ashfall would certainly affect air travel in the area — just how much will depend on the wind.

Sofia was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She’s reported around the U.S. for local public radio stations, NPR and National Native News. Sofia has a Master of Arts in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism from the University of Montana, a graduate certificate in Documentary Studies from the Salt Institute and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado Boulder. In between her studies, Sofia was a ski bum in Telluride, Colorado for a few years.
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