On Sunday, June 19, 2005, Anatahan Volcano ejected ash to an elevation of more than 15,000 meters (50,000 feet). The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of a subsequent plume on June 20, 2005. A giant cloud of ash sweeps from the central Mariana Islands westward across the Pacific. The bright area on the right side of the image is sunglint: reflection of sunlight off the ocean’s surface into the satellite sensor.
As airplanes typically fly at a lower elevation than the height of the Anatahan ash cloud, aircraft have been warmed to avoid the vicinity. Airplanes that have the bad luck to fly through volcanic ash clouds can experience serious damage to flight instruments and engines. Dusted aircraft that escape the ash clouds can still require expensive cleaning.
Anatahan continues to steam after its largest eruption in recorded history on April 6, 2005. This major eruption was a continuation of its third historical eruption, which began early in January 2005. Anatahan is located in the Northern Mariana Islands in the North Pacific Ocean and has been responsible for blanketing Guam and other nearby islands with volcanic haze.