Mount Pavlof is one of the most active volcanoes in North America. Located in Alaska’s Aleutian Range, it’s erupted on a fairly regular basis since 2007. And it’s back at it today, potentially screwing up your travel plans.
The issue is that Pavlof is being feisty even by its own standards. The eruption, while not quite as dramatic as some, came yesterday afternoon with no warning and threw ash 20,000 feet in the air, which put the aviation alerts around the volcano to Red, the highest level. Volcanic ash is essentially small pellets of glass and rock; if it gets sucked into an airplane engine, it can destroy delicate parts and melt and reform into a solid mass of rock inside it, stalling it out. A Red level alert is more or less a grounding of all planes, depending on where you are. It could be worse: Volcano sharks are a thing, after all.
The relatively good news is that Pavlof’s ash cloud appears to largely be heading northward, so flights from Seattle and Los Angeles likely won’t be delayed. The bad news is that it looks like the airborne ash is going to sock in flights across Alaska, and it’s not clear whether Pavlof is done quite yet; the sudden nature of the eruption has the Alaska Volcano Observatory on alert. And if the wind shifts, a whole bunch of dangerous ash might be heading south. So, if you’ve got a flight from the West Coast in the next day or so, keep a sharp eye on the Observatory’s Pavlof home page. And maybe consider bringing a second book to read.