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Fri, Apr 14, 2023

Eruption of Russian Volcano Threatens E.U. Flights

Fire in the East

The Eruption of Russia’s Mt. Shiveluch—one of the vast nation’s most active volcanoes—has prompted the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team to issue a Code Red warning to flights operating within a one-hundred-thousand-kilometer area surrounding the mountain. The warning states in part: “Ongoing activity could affect international and low-flying aircraft.”

Located in Russia’s remote far east on the immense Kamchatka Peninsula, the Shiveluch volcano erupted just after midnight Kamchatka Time (UTC +12) on Tuesday, 11 April 2023, reaching its climax six-hours later. The eruption sent a colossal cloud of ultra-fine volcanic ash 12.5-miles (twenty-kilometers) into the overlying stratosphere.

Presently, fallout from the ash cloud covers some 67,100-square-miles (108,000-square-kilometers). Villages have been carpeted in drifts of gray ash up to four-inches (ten-centimeters) deep—the deepest in sixty-years. Lava flows continue to pour down the volcano’s slopes, melting snowpack and prompting mud-flow warning.

The incident has occasioned concerns pertaining to both the immediate safety of commercial flights in the region and the long-term impact the eruption may have on global flight routes.

In April 2010, a sprawling ash cloud resultant of the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano covered northern Europe, grounding thousands of flights as countries imposed the most extensive airspace closure since the 11 September attacks of 2001. The weeklong airspace closure saw the cancellations of over 95,000 flights.

Speaking to the subject of the 11 April Mt. Shiveluch eruption, Danila Chebrov, director of the Kamchatka branch of Russia’s Geophysical Survey, stated: “The ash reached twenty-kilometers high; the ash cloud moved westwards and there was a very strong fall of ash on nearby villages.”

Mr. Chebrov added: “The volcano was preparing for this for at least a year. … and the process is continuing; though it has calmed a little now.”

Chebrov cautioned that further major ash clouds remain possible, but posited Shiveluch’s lava flows are unlikely to reach local villages.

Among Kamchatka’s largest and most active volcanoes, 10,771-foot (3,283-meter) Mt. Shiveluch has loosed an estimated sixty substantial eruptions in the past ten-thousand years—the last major instance having occurred in 2007. The mountain comprises two principal geological structures: 9,186-foot (2,800-meter) Young Shiveluch, the extreme activity of which vulcanologists have tracked in recent months, and Old Shiveluch, from which Young Shiveluch protrudes to the mountain’s total 10,771-foot height.

Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula spans a 140,000-square-mile (225,308-square-kilometer) area and sustains a human population of some three-hundred-thousand inhabitants. The peninsula is dotted by upwards of three-hundred volcanoes—29 of which remain active. The volcanoes of Kamchatka—constituents, all, of the Pacific Basin’s famed Ring of Fire—collectively constitute one of the world’s great volcanic regions, and are listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage site.



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