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TCTI: Too Crazy To Ignore

Dave Ross

UW scientist captures 'scream' of Alaskan volcano as it erupts

As the pressure of the Redoubt Volcano builds, the quakes get smaller and happen in such rapid succession that they blend into a continuous harmonic tremor. (AP Photo/Chris Waythomas, Alaska Volcano Observatory)

It sounds like a joke: what did the volcano say just before it blew its top?

As it turns out, it didn't actually say anything, but instead screamed like a banshee.

University of Washington scientist Alicia Hotovec-Ellis, a doctoral student in Earth and Space Sciences, recorded audio of Alaska's Redoubt Volcano during a 2009 eruption.

She wanted to know what happens moments before a volcano erupts.

As it turns out, a number of small earthquakes, ranging in magnitude from about 0.5 to 1.5. As the pressure builds, the quakes get smaller and happen in such rapid succession that they blend into a continuous harmonic tremor.

"After the frequency glides up to a ridiculously high frequency, it pauses and then it explodes," she explained.

And it sounds like a really intense drum circle...at first.

So what's the point of all of this? Possibly a precursor to creating devices that warn people of a pending eruption, thus saving lives.

Or just take notice when all the animals scurry away.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

Tune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

  • Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FMTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

About the Author


Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.

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