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Geologic map of Okmok Volcano

January 1, 2023

The geologic map and description of map units presented here cover approximately 880 km2 of northeastern Umnak Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska. This report focuses on Okmok Volcano and its eruptive products and updates the mid-20th-century geologic map of Byers (1959). Mapped deposits reflect the state of the volcano just prior to the 2008 eruption. Published information about other portions of Umnak Island geology, including Mount Recheshnoi and Mount Vsevidof, can be found in Byers (1959). The 2008 eruption and its deposits are described in Larsen and others (2009, 2013, 2015).

Okmok Volcano is one of 54 historically active volcanoes in the Alaska–Aleutian volcanic arc that stretches across southern mainland Alaska and the Aleutian Islands (fig. 1; Wood and Kienle, 1990; Miller and others, 1998; Cameron and others, 2020). The highest point of the modern Okmok Caldera is along the caldera’s northern rim, 967 m in elevation, and formally named “Mount Okmok” (U.S. Board on Geographic Names,…). Okmok Volcano dominates the northeastern portion of Umnak Island, which is 100 km southwest of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and 1,400 km southwest of Anchorage (figs. 1, 2). The Port of Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island produces the highest volume of seafood for any port in the United States (see Unalaska city and the Port of Dutch Harbor have been impacted by ash fall and drifting ash clouds from Okmok Volcano’s explosive eruptions as recently as 2008. Holocene and late Pleistocene volcanic rocks and deposits of Okmok Volcano rest upon glaciated Tertiary volcanic and sedimentary rocks (Byers, 1959). 

The first geologic mapping expedition to Okmok Volcano was by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) after the 1945 eruption, largely in response to concerns about volcanic hazards to U.S. military activities in the Aleutians Islands (Byers and others, 1947, 1959; Byers and Brannock, 1949; Byers, 1955, 1959, 1961). The State of Alaska conducted further mapping and geochemical studies as part of its geothermal exploration program in the 1980s (Nye, 1983; Nye and Reid, 1986; Motyka and others, 1993). Additional modern geological work focused on Okmok Volcano and the rest of Umnak Island to address the geochemistry and origin of primary Aleutian arc magmas and subduction zone mass recycling (Marsh, 1982; Brophy and Marsh, 1986; Nye and Reid, 1986; Myers and Marsh, 1987; Miller and others, 1992; Fournelle and others, 1994; Kay and Kay, 1994).

In 1998, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) began a multi-year effort to expand geophysical monitoring in the central Aleutians Islands, including at Okmok Volcano. As part of this effort, AVO geologists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute (UAF/GI), the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys (DGGS), and USGS also began a renewed effort to document Okmok Volcano’s recent eruption products. The project started with reconnaissance fieldwork to document and sample products from the 1997 eruption within Okmok Caldera. This evolved into an effort to produce an updated geologic map of Okmok Volcano and gather more information about its eruptive history and hazards. Three significant eruptions occurred at Okmok Volcano in 1958, 1997, and 2008—after fieldwork had been conducted for the original 1:63,360-scale geologic map produced by Byers (1959)—resulting in new volcanic deposits not previously described.

Okmok Volcano is one of the most frequently active volcanoes in the Aleutian volcanic arc. Seismic and geodetic monitoring indicate ongoing unrest at Okmok Volcano since at least 1997. Geodetic observations of inflation before and after the 1997 and 2008 eruptions indicate a nearly continuous input of new magma from a depth consistent with frequent eruptions of basalt and basaltic andesite magmas over the past 200 years (Larsen and others, 2013; Lu and others, 2000, 2003, 2005; Mann, 2002; Mann and others, 2002). To better understand the likelihood and character of future eruptions from Okmok Volcano, it is necessary to understand its past behavior, including eruptions since the first geologic map was published by Byers (1959).

Publication Year 2023
Title Geologic map of Okmok Volcano
DOI 10.14509/31015
Authors Jessica Larsen, Christina A. Neal, Janet Schaefer, Christopher J. Nye
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Series Title Report of Investigations of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys
Series Number 2023-1
Index ID 70250602
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center