Geomorphic consequences of volcanic eruptions in Alaska: A review




Eruptions of Alaska volcanoes have significant and sometimes profound geomorphic consequences on surrounding landscapes and ecosystems. The effects of eruptions on the landscape can range from complete burial of surface vegetation and preexisting topography to subtle, short-term perturbations of geomorphic and ecological systems. In some cases, an eruption will allow for new landscapes to form in response to the accumulation and erosion of recently deposited volcaniclastic material. In other cases, the geomorphic response to a major eruptive event may set in motion a series of landscape changes that could take centuries to millennia to be realized. The effects of volcanic eruptions on the landscape and how these effects influence surface processes has not been a specific focus of most studies concerned with the physical volcanology of Alaska volcanoes. Thus, what is needed is a review of eruptive activity in Alaska in the context of how this activity influences the geomorphology of affected areas. To illustrate the relationship between geomorphology and volcanic activity in Alaska, several eruptions and their geomorphic impacts will be reviewed. These eruptions include the 1912 Novarupta–Katmai eruption, the 1989–1990 and 2009 eruptions of Redoubt volcano, the 2008 eruption of Kasatochi volcano, and the recent historical eruptions of Pavlof volcano. The geomorphic consequences of eruptive activity associated with these eruptions are described, and where possible, information about surface processes, rates of landscape change, and the temporal and spatial scale of impacts are discussed.

A common feature of volcanoes in Alaska is their extensive cover of glacier ice, seasonal snow, or both. As a result, the generation of meltwater and a variety of sediment–water mass flows, including debris-flow lahars, hyperconcentrated-flow lahars, and sediment-laden water floods, are typical outcomes of most types of eruptive activity. Occasionally, such flows can be quite large, with flow volumes in the range of 107–109 m3. A review of the lahars generated during the 2009 eruption of Redoubt volcano will illustrate the geomorphic impacts of lahars on stream channels and riparian habitat. Although much work is needed to develop a comprehensive understanding of the geomorphic consequences of volcanic activity in Alaska, this review provides a synthesis of some of the best-studied eruptions and perhaps will serve as a starting point for future work on this topic.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Geomorphic consequences of volcanic eruptions in Alaska: A review
Series title Geomorphology
DOI 10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.06.004
Volume 246
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Amsterdam
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 23 p.
First page 123
Last page 145
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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