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Alaska's Redoubt Volcano Blows Off Some Steam
Credit: Game McGimsey - AVO/USGS.

At the Alaska Volcano Observatory, volcanologists get up close and personal with their research subjects — even when they don't look so friendly.

In the above photo, Rick Wessels, a geophysicist, creeps through the Chigmit Mountains of Alaska to get a good look at Redoubt, a volcano that erupted as recently as 2009. Wessels is acquiring thermal images of Redoubt's dome with a state of the art tool known as the FLIR. FLIR stands for "forward-looking infrared imaging." This technique lets scientists look at the infrared radiation emitted from a heat source, such as a volcano. Volcanologists often use FLIR images to keep tabs on active volcanoes.

Redoubt is a 10,196-foot-high (3,108 meters) glacier-covered stratovolcano, about 105 miles (170 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, in Lake Clark National Park.

The volcano formed beginning about 890,000 years ago and a collapse of its summit some 10,500-13,000 years ago produced a major debris avalanche that spread across the region, according to the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program. An eruption in 1989 hurt the region's economy and halted air travel across the globe.

The volcano's last known eruption was in 2009, and a series of small earthquakes rumbled for a few days in April 2010.

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