Study Discovers Ice-Capped Volcanoes at Westdahl Peak Volcano Erupt at a Slower Rate

The Westdahl Peak volcano in Alaska last erupted in 1992, and its continuing growth suggests that another eruption is imminent.

Experts predicted that the next eruption would occur by 2010, but the volcano, which is situated under nearly 1 kilometer of glacial ice, is yet to erupt.

Recent volcanic modeling research inspired by the Westdahl Peak volcano investigated how glaciers impact the security and quick eruption phases of elevated volcanic systems, some of which are located along significant air traffic routes.

Slow eruption of ice-capped volcanoes


(Photo : LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

The study, led by Lilian Lucas, an undergraduate research associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with postgraduate Jack Albright, graduate student Yan Zhan, and geology professor Patricia Gregg, used finite volume element of numerical modeling to investigate the solidity of the rock that envelops volcanic structures, but also with a twist.

When projecting the time of eruptions, the researchers took into consideration the added pressure from glacial ice volcanoes.

Volcanic forecasting incorporates several variables, according to Lucas, such as the depth and size of a volcano’s magma chamber, the pace at which magma fills that chamber, and the strength of the rocks that confine the chamber.

Another essential, but poorly understood, component is the overlaying pressure from the polar ice caps.

Although the Aleutian Islands are isolated, they are located along with a significant aviation transit and commercial route between North America and East Asia, according to Albright.

Because volcanic ash in the sky is dangerous to aircraft engines and can create large disruptions in air traffic, more precise forecasting, even on a monthly scale, can give crucial safety information for air traffic and residents.

According to the study, the team did computer simulations of magma reservoirs of various sizes and forms to evaluate how overlaying pressure from polar ice might alter the timing of eruptions.

Researchers altered the flux, or quantity of magma entering the system from below, to see when the corresponding pressure exceeded the strength of the surrounding rock.

Earlier research has looked at how seasonal variations, such as yearly snow cover, can alter volcano eruption intervals.

Small seasonal changes, however, are unlikely to have a significant effect in most systems when compared to the overall overlaying stress that the magma chamber must resist in order to erupt.

Annual ice loss may influence explosion duration for ecosystems on the verge of collapse, according to Zhan.

It will also be critical to evaluate how climate change and glacial glacier melt may affect Westdahl Peak and other rising volcanoes in the future.

Also Read: Most Dangerous Volcanoes in the World That Can Erupt at Any Time

Westdahl Peak Volcano

Westdahl is a wide, 1654-meter-high glacier-covered volcano on Unimak Island’s southwest coast.

A fresh crater built-in 1978 penetrates the top icecap, and two summits emerge from the summit plateau.

The wide volcano has a shield-like appearance and is one of the Aleutian Islands’ greatest volcanoes. Five kilometers north of Westdahl is the sharp-topped, conical Pogromni stratovolcano.

Pogromni climbs to 2002 m, several hundred meters higher than Westdahl, but is glacially dissected and so likely older.

Many postglacial satellite cones may be seen along an NW-SE line that cuts through Westdahl’s peak. Some past eruptions attributed to the eroding Pogromni volcano may have been caused by Westdahl.

Westdahl’s first historical eruption occurred in 1795. In 1991, an 8-kilometer-long fissure running east from Westdahl’s peak erupted with volcanic explosions and lava flows.

Related article: Awakening the Giant! Iceland’s Largest Volcano Might Erupt After Unusual Big Quakes

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