Despite the many difficulties encountered due to the COVID-19 pandemic this summer the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) successfully completed work critical to the continued operation of our real-time volcano monitoring network and made significant progress toward converting our network from analog to digital telemetry. As a result of the pandemic our original plans had to be completely changed and many modifications were made in the months leading up to the field season. Due to the severity of the pandemic our primary goal for this year was to complete our work in a way that would ensure the health and safety of our field crews, contractors, and those that we interacted with in local communities. We developed and implemented a COVID-19 operational safety to mitigate the risks of fieldwork in remote locations.
Key components of our operations plan were:
Reduced field team size and scope of operations
A 14 day pre-embarkation quarantine for all team members, including AVO field staff, boat and helicopter crews
All field team members were tested for COVID-19, and were required to produce a negative test result prior to embarkation
Isolation of our field teams from community interaction to mitigate the risk of potential virus transmission as much as possible.
We were able to complete the majority of our planned work, and all tasks critical to the continued operation of the network without further delay and with no known cases of COVID-19, thanks to the effort of all involved and the strict adherence to the COVID-19 safety plan.
Highlights of fieldwork from this year included major efforts on Unimak and Akutan islands to incorporate the GPS stations previously installed and operated by UNAVCO into AVO’s monitoring networks. During this campaign, field crews made repairs and upgrades to power systems and data telemetry critical to the continued operation of stations in these networks. As a result of this work, we were able to reestablish monitoring of Westdahl volcano, which had been downgraded to unmonitored due to lack of real-time seismic data. Other highlights from the 2020 field season included work in the Katmai area, and on Augustine Volcano to improve our real-time monitoring capabilities in both of those locations. We were also able to complete the installation of an infrasound array on the Kenai Peninsula to allow for better monitoring of volcanic unrest in the Cook Inlet area. In total, during 2020 we completed work at 110 stations at 12 volcano networks.