U.S. to upgrade volcano, earthquake monitoring

Fri Apr 10, 2009 7:31pm EDT

WASHINGTON, April 10 (Reuters) - Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Friday the U.S. government will spend $15.2 million to modernize equipment for monitoring U.S. volcanoes and improve warning systems.

The United States and its territories have 169 active volcanoes, and 54 of them need improved monitoring so scientists can warn the public about explosive disruptions, alert aircraft to ash clouds and inform communities of falling ash, lava and mud flows, Salazar said.

He pointed out that the March 22 eruption of the Mount Redoubt volcano, 106 miles (170 km) southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, showed the need for adequate monitoring.

When the Redoubt volcano erupted 19 years ago, a Boeing 747 passenger airliner flew into its ash cloud and nearly crashed.

The money to upgrade volcano monitoring will come from the $3 billion that the Interior Department is responsible for managing under the economic stimulus plan passed by Congress.

Salazar said $29.4 million will also be spent to double the number of seismic stations that monitor earthquakes across the country to 1,600. (Reporting by Tom Doggett; editing by Mohammad Zargham)