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KURILE ISLAND VOLCANOES AND THE THREAT TO AVIATION

The remote Kurile Islands of the northwest Pacific stretch 1250 km (740 mi) from the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula to northern Hokkaido, Japan. The Kuriles include 68 identified volcanic centers above sea level. Among them, 36 have been active in recent times and many are capable of producing sudden ash clouds that rise more than 15 km (50,000 ft) above sea level.

Some of the world's most heavily traveled air corridors pass within a few hundred km of Kurile volcanoes. Daily, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 people fly on these routes. Ash clouds can rise more than 1 km (3,300 ft) per minute, putting dozens of en route wide-body jets rapidly in harm's way on a typical day in the North Pacific. Ash clouds travel with prevailing winds across hundreds or thousands of kilometers of airspace within a day. Inadvertent entry into an ash cloud can severely damage aircraft systems and, in the worst case, lead to complete engine failure. Ash fallout can also curtail ground operations at airports.

WHAT IS SVERT?

SVERT is a project within the Institute of Marine Geology and Geophysics in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Sakhalin Island, Russia. Their objective is to share timely information regarding the state of activity at the active volcanoes of the Kurile Island chain. Sources of information include daily MODIS satellite imagery provided by colleagues at Far East Department of the Rosgeolfond, ground-based observations of several volcanoes on the southern Kurile Islands, and time-delayed seismic data from Iturup and Kunashir Islands provided by colleagues at the Sakhalin Experimental and Methodical Seismological Department. SVERT is modeled on but not identical to the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT).

SVERT is not a 24-hour facility and their ability to detect activity at the many remote, uninhabited islands of the Kuriles is limited due to frequent poor weather and the lack of geophysical instrumentation.

HOW DOES SVERT COMMUNICATE WARNINGS?

SVERT is in phone or email contact with Russian, Japanese, and U.S. aviation and meteorological authorities and with AVO immediately upon detection of volcanic unrest. SVERT issues daily and weekly summaries of activity and Volcanic Activity Notices for Aviation (VONAs) as needed.

Individuals may request to receive email updates and alerts directly from SVERT by contacting Alexander Rybin, Chief of SVERT at rybin@imgg.ru

In the event of large or new eruptions in the Kuriles, AVO will assist as needed in communicating details of the activity to U.S. authorities.