PHOENIX — Not only does Arizona have volcanoes, but it’s likely that some day the state will see eruptions similar to what Hawaii has been experiencing.
But a Flagstaff volcanologist said not to worry, that an increase in tourism traffic would be a bigger hassle than anything volcanoes in the area could cough up.
“The lava moves slowly, you can walk out of the way, and you get just to enjoy nature’s fireworks,” Laszlo Kestay of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
“This kind of eruption would be quite fun to watch.”
Volcanoes considered dormant haven’t erupted in thousands of years but are expected to again eventually. The state has fields of them in the Flagstaff area and to the east near New Mexico, but don’t start planning your volcano-viewing vacation just yet.
“This field of volcanoes around Flagstaff has been erupting once every five to 10 thousand years, and the last eruption was about a thousand years ago, so we don’t expect another eruption to happen very soon,” he said.
“But on the other hand, it’s not like this is clockwork where every few thousand years it goes off.”
But if an Arizona volcano did erupt ahead of schedule, Kestay said it wouldn’t come as a surprise because instruments would detect it in advance. Nor would it do much harm.
“Because where it’s most likely to erupt is outside of town, there really wouldn’t be the expectation of much damage, maybe a little bit of ash falling on some people’s homes,” he said.
From a geological standpoint, it wouldn’t differ much from the Kilauea eruption that has destroyed 36 structures this month.
“The kind of eruption that could happen here again would be very similar to the kind of eruption that’s going on in Hawaii right now,” Kestay said.
“It would involve some lava being thrown in the air and making some cones and then relatively short lava flows going maybe a mile or maybe a few miles from the vent.”