Budget Cuts Pare Real-Time Monitoring of Volcanoes
Scientists monitoring Alaska’s volcanoes have been forced to shut down stations that provide real-time tracking of eruptions and forgo repairs of seismic equipment amid ongoing federal budget cuts — moves that could mean delays in getting vital information to airline pilots and emergency planners.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory can no longer seismically monitor five volcanoes with real-time equipment to detect imminent eruptions. Such equipment is especially important in helping pilots receive up-to-the-minute warnings about spewing ash that can cause engine failures and other problems.
Alaska has 52 active volcanoes, with many of them located on the Aleutians Islands along international air routes between Europe, North America and Asia.
Alaska Airlines officials said the observatory, funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, provides a crucial service, including early warnings of seismic changes that may portend an impending eruption. Monitors need to be operating all the time, not just during major eruptions, said Betty Bollert, an Alaska Airlines dispatcher.