Eruption of 3 volcanoes has scientists asking questions - Is there a common thread or were events just coincidence? How likely is it that three neighboring volcanoes would all erupt at the same time - as the Kasatochi, Okmok and Cleveland volcanoes in the Aleutians did this summer? About as likely as a storm that only appears once in a thousand years, says an Anchorage volcanologist. All 40 active volcanoes in the Aleutian Arc - a 1,500-mile-long necklace of volcanic peaks that stretch from Kiska Island in the west to Mount Spurr near Anchorage in the east - owe their existence to the deep, subterranean collision of two tectonic plates. But the plumbing isn't necessarily connected, and the volcanoes don't all go off at once. Each has its own combustion chamber, its own pressure issues, and one volcano under stress may well border another one that's quiet. Since Alaska has so many volcanoes, it's not that unusual to have two that erupt the same year. In fact that's the average. And it's not unheard of to have two volcanoes erupting at the same time, especially since some volcanoes blow off steam and ash for weeks or even months. Having three volcanoes in the 1,500-mile arc erupting all at once, however, is less likely. And it's even more unlikely that three volcanoes would all erupt at the same time within 300 miles of each other, as the three central Aleutian peaks did, more or less, in July and August. That makes it harder to dismiss the triple-eruption as a chance occurrence. So geologists are exploring other explanations. One of them focuses on the fact that all three volcanoes lie within the rupture zone of the 1957 "Great Aleutian Earthquake," a magnitude 8.3 tremor that generated a tsunami that damaged buildings in far-off Hawaii. Because there was so much disruption of earth along the quake's fault line, the ground around it was drastically distorted and compressed.
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