On June 6, 1912 the largest eruption of the century was about to take place and the people of the Alaska Peninsula had no idea it was coming. Fortunately the location of the volcano (now Katmai National Monument) had a very low population density. Throughout the morning there were small earthquakes far below the earths surface. Other than the small earthquakes there was no sign of a volcanic eruption, especially one of this magnitude.
Volcanic monitoring is excellent now the smallest earthquakes occurring within a volcano are reported through scientific systems immediately today. Often if something is suspected scientists will set up a camp near the volcano to take in data and by doing this they can predict volcano’s far in advance. In 1912 scientist were just beginning to grasp ideas of why volcano’s erupt or when. Also in 1912 Alaska was not a state of the united states, therefore scientists from the U.S had no purpose there.
When the volcano erupted that morning people living in Juneau, Alaska 750 miles from the blast heard the eruption an hour after it had occurred. Clouds of gas and ash flowed into the sky for the next 60 hours. Everything within 30 cubic kilometers of the blast was destroyed. The amount of ash and gas released was more than thirty times the amount released by the legendary 1980 Mt. St. Helen eruption.
A town called Kodiak Island 100 miles from the eruption saw a cloud of ash that stretched 20 miles into the sky slowly head towards them. The ash reached the city and made breathing and vision very difficult. The build up of ash was so heavy in Kodiak Island that it caused buildings to collapse and was over a foot high. Any person who was not able to find shelter would have died.
The pyroclastic flow covered some spots of 120 kilometers and was 20 meters deep. A v shaped valley called Knife Creek turned into a flat plain due to the build up of pyroclastic flow.
There will be another large eruption in the future. There have been seven large eruptions within 500 miles of Anchorage in the last 4000 years. Another factor leading scientists to believe another large eruption will occur is that the Alaska Peninsula is on a active convergent boundary.
Future eruptions will have a huge impact on the surrounding area and across the globe. Locally the same problems will occur including large deposits of pyroclastic flow and ash debris. But throughout the world with the elevation of the volcano’s being so high it can lead to extreme changes in surface temperature. Also debris can severely effect air traffic in many ways including pilots vision and debris ruining the aircraft.
We can not stop eruptions from happening, well not yet. So we must educate the people who could be effected by these natural disasters.