Anatahan Eruption of May 21

June 12, 2003


Referred by: Robert Stern, UT Dallas Geosciences
Summary authors & editors: Robert Stern

A scientific team sent by the National Science Foundation to sample ash from the eruption of Mt. Anatahan observed the scene above -- photo taken by Patrick Shore on May 21. As the team sailed away from the island on the afternoon of the 21st, there was a very large eruption with a loud boom, followed by a dark, ash-laded, billowing plume (the view above is toward the northwest).

On the night of May 10, Anatahan Volcano announced itself with a vigorous eruption that sent ash high into the atmosphere. Astronauts on the International Space Station photographed the ash cloud 12 hours later (see the web link below). The eruption is still ongoing.

As mentioned on yesterday's Earth Science Picture of the Day, this was the first recorded eruption of Mt. Anatahan, which is located 80 miles (128 km) north of Saipan. Anatahan Island is 6 miles long by 2 miles wide (about 10 km by 3 km) and is part of the Mariana island arc (a commonwealth of the U.S.). Volcanoes in the Marianas result from subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the Philippine Sea plate. [Revised May 2017]

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