The waning phase of the 1989-1990 eruption of Redoubt Volcano in the Cook Inlet region of south-central Alaska comprised a quasi-regular pattern of repetitious dome growth and destruction that lasted from February 15 to late April 1990. The dome failures produced ash plumes hazardous to airline traffic. In response to this hazard, the Alaska Volcano Observatory sought to forecast these ash-producing events using two approaches. One approach built on early successes in issuing warnings before major eruptions on December 14, 1989 and January 2, 1990. These warnings were based largely on changes in seismic activity related to the occurrence of precursory swarms of long-period seismic events. The search for precursory swarms of long-period seismicity was continued through the waning phase of the eruption and led to warnings before tephra eruptions on March 23 and April 6. The observed regularity of dome failures after February 15 suggested that a statistical forecasting method based on a constant-rate failure model might also be successful. The first statistical forecast was issued on March 16 after seven events had occurred, at an average interval of 4.5 days. At this time, the interval between dome failures abruptly lengthened. Accordingly, the forecast was unsuccessful and further forecasting was suspended until the regularity of subsequent failures could be confirmed. Statistical forecasting resumed on April 12, after four dome failure episodes separated by an average of 7.8 days. One dome failure (April 15) was successfully forecast using a 70% confidence window, and a second event (April 21) was narrowly missed before the end of the activity. The cessation of dome failures after April 21 resulted in a concluding false alarm. Although forecasting success during the eruption was limited, retrospective analysis shows that early and consistent application of the statistical method using a constant-rate failure model and a 90% confidence window could have yielded five successful forecasts and two false alarms; no events would have been missed. On closer examination, the intervals between successive dome failures are not uniform but tend to increase with time. This increase attests to the continuous, slowly decreasing supply of magma to the surface vent during the waning phase of the eruption. The domes formed in a precarious position in a breach in the summit crater rim where they were susceptible to gravitational collapse. The instability of the February 15-April 21 domes relative to the earlier domes is attributed to reaming the lip of the vent by a laterally directed explosion during the major dome-destroying eruption of February 15, a process which would leave a less secure foundation for subsequent domes. ?? 1994.
Additional publication details
Statistical forecasting of repetitious dome failures during the waning eruption of Redoubt Volcano, Alaska, February-April 1990