Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory
On Saturday, May 20, 2006, Montserrat’s residents were warned to stay inside as the Soufriere Hills Volcano covered much of the small Caribbean island in 5 to 7 centimeters (2 to 3 inches) of volcanic ash and pebbles. Likewise, air traffic was stopped in the area after the eruption spewed volcanic ash 16 kilometers (10 miles) skyward. Volcanic ash is not really ash at all, but tiny, jagged particles of glass, rocks, and minerals that damage respiratory tracts. Thick clouds of volcanic ash also pose hazards for aviation, both in terms of visibility and aircraft engine damage.
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