Murkowski Reintroduces Volcano Monitoring Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today reintroduced the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring Program Act, S. 566. The bill establishes a national volcano monitoring system that includes the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

“I introduced volcano monitoring legislation in 2009, as a result of the Mt. Redoubt volcano eruptions.  While it brought awareness to the issue, the legislation did not become law, so I am reintroducing the bill this Congress,” Murkowski said. “Volcanic eruptions are a constant threat in Alaska and can have dramatic impacts on the economy, as last year’s eruption in Iceland reminded us yet again.”

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and its university and state partners operate five volcanic observatories, including the AVO. The other four are in Vancouver, WA; Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park; Yellowstone National Park and Mammoth Lakes and Menlo Park, CA.

Murkowski’s legislation would establish a National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System within the USGS to monitor, warn and protect citizens from undue and avoidable harm from volcanic activity.

Murkowski said the Alaska Volcano Observatory has been constantly underfunded since it was formed in 1988, after an eruption of Mount Augustine.  AVO monitors more than 30 active volcanoes in Alaska, by far the busiest observatory in the world.

The FAA estimates that more than 80,000 large aircraft per year, and 30,000 people per day, are in the skies over and potentially downwind of many of Alaska’s volcanoes, mostly on the heavily traveled great-circle routes between Europe, North America, and Asia.  Along this route, which coincidently follows the northern portion of the Pacific "ring of fire", are over 100 volcanoes capable of depositing ash into the flight path.  The USGS states that about 100 encounters of aircraft with volcanic ash were documented from 1983 to 2000 including a KLM Boeing 747 passenger jet in 1989 flying 150 miles northeast of Anchorage, when encountering an ash cloud erupted from the Mt. Redoubt Volcano, lost power in all four jet engines.  After landing, it was determined the plane suffered about $80 million in damage.