DISCUSSION: Vanuatu, a nation of islands located in the Pacific Ring of Fire (between Australia and Hawaii), is home to about 280,000 people and stretches nearly 800 miles. Ranked as the country most at risk for natural disasters in the world, recent volcanic activity has now added to Vanuatu’s reputation. On the island of Ambae, recent activity from the Monaro volcano has forced the entire population of the island of approximately 11,000 to evacuate. Most of those who evacuated are being transported by boat or are airlifted to one of the other nearly 80 islands in the island chain.
With rocks and gas spewing from the volcano, the government has issued the second-highest alert possible in their volcanic alert system for the first time ever at Level 4 (Level 5 indicates an eruption is imminent). Although they can measure seismic activity, it is impossible to predict exactly when an eruption will occur.
In addition, evacuations have been underway on the island of Bali in Indonesia. Mount Agung (in photo), a volcano located in the northeast region of the island, has been at its highest alert level for about a week. Nearly 134,000 people have been strongly urged to leave their homes. When the volcano last erupted in 1963, lava traveled 4.7 miles, ash was hurled up 12 miles, and about 1,100 people lost their lives.
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©2017 Meteorologist Nicholas Quaglieri
DISCUSSION: Within the past week, there have been definitive signs of activity in association with Mount Etna. As seen in the video above (courtesy of the Protezione Civile), there was a fairly large ash cloud emanating from close to the peak of Mount Etna (which is an active stratovolcano located on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, in the Metropolitan City of Catania, between the cities of Messina and Catania). As this eruption period continued through the course of the day back on February 28th, there were also other growing concerns. As a volcanic eruption occurs, there are often major concerns for a growing threat to commercial and private aviation interests.
This is due to the fact that as a volcanic eruption persists, increasingly larger amounts of volcanic ash are suspended into the localized atmosphere before spreading out from the point of origin (i.e., Mount Etna in this particular case) and affecting other geographic regions in and around the point source of the volcanic ash. This spreading out of the original volcanic ash plume occurs as the prevailing winds through the depth of the atmosphere transport the ash cloud in a given direction before being spread out in a more dispersed manner as the concentration of the ash cloud slowly decreases. Therefore, even after several days from the original eruption, any residual ash suspended in the atmosphere has the ability to damage aircraft engines along with ash ejected from any residual volcanic activity associated with Mount Etna.
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz