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Alaska Beat

June centennial of Novarupta-Katmai eruption features a burst of events

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published May 24, 2012

Nearly 100 years ago in Alaska, the 20th century's largest volcanic blast reduced global temperatures for at least a year and spread ash as far as the Mediterranean Sea.

To mark the centennial anniversary of Novarupta-Katmai eruption next month, the U.S. Geological Survey plans a summer-long series of lectures, programs and other events.

For starters, the agency has also put a lot of cool stuff online at the Alaska Volcano Observatory website. Highlights include a new historical volume and a timeline that documents accounts and fallout from the three-day eruption that began June 6, 1912.

Bet you didn't know:

• Explosions were heard 755 miles away in Juneau, but not in Kodiak 105 miles away. That's likely because of "shadow zones" caused by sound waves bouncing off the Earth's atmosphere, the timeline says.

• The blowout spewed seven cubic miles of ash. That would have been enough to bury today's municipality of Anchorage three miles deep, a USGS press release said.

• Flowing ash created the "Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes," as thousands of fumaroles released steam plumes, some more than 500 feet high.

• Mount Katmai collapsed by about 4,000 feet, leaving a caldera.

Find the main page here featuring all the events, activities and videos -- including a film from the late 1960s describing astronaut training in the moon-like valley created by the explosion. A few of the upcoming USGS lectures and programs in Fairbanks, Kodiak and Anchorage include:

• A children's program will bring the Katmai eruption to life with accounts and old photos. It's set for Wednesday, June 6, at 10 a.m. in Kodiak's Baranov museum.

• On Wednesday, June 6 at 2 p.m. in Anchorage, USGS geologist Michelle Coombs will give a free public lecture, "Monitoring Alaska's volcanoes." The talk will be held at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center at 605 W. Fourth Ave. in Suite 105.

Coombs' Wednesday afternoon talk will launch a summer series of lectures in downtown Anchorage. The Alaska Volcano Observatory and other groups will host the talks on volcano topics at 2 p.m. each Wednesday in the Alaska Public Lands Information Center.

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