Cover photo Tacoma, Washington at the foot of Mount Rainier via trailcross.com
Last Friday, word circulated on the internet that earthquakes observed under Mount St. Helens by the U.S. Geological Survey indicated that the lady was recharging for another possible blow in the coming years. This writer, remembering the May 18, 1980 event quite clearly, gave the readers the reasoning for sounding the alarm that maybe, just maybe we’d see another explosion from that mountain in our lifetimes. (Let’s face it, geological time is measured at a completely different pace than human activity.)
Well, my readers and commentors were not happy at all with the presentation. See, it’s Mount Rainier, they all informed me, that was far more dangerous and LOOOOONNNNNNG overdue for an eruption. (I actually knew this, but had not looked into earthquake and seismic activity around Mount Rainier at that point, so had to real rebuttal for the naysayers.)
With a little bit of research, and a quick look at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network website, yes, it is true that the geologists are watching Mount Rainier, but more activity is happening at Mount St. Helens. On the PSNS page, this graphic greeted me on the morning of May 9, 2016.
According to PNSN numbers, in the past 30 days, there have been 99 earthquakes at Mount St. Helens and 34 under Mount Rainier, which IS an increase over past observations. This was the same sort of activity, according to the vast majority of accounts, that were a precursor to the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. Note, though, that there are a third the number under Mount Rainier of the current Mount St. Helens swarm, which is defined as 10 or more earthquakes a day. At and around the time of eruption, those numbers dramatically increase to hundreds per day. This is not to discount the extreme danger of that many earthquakes occurring under an amazingly dangerous volcano (Rainier), but to demonstrate that the “recharge” idea is applicable to a volcano that blew off half of her cone 36 years ago.
This is also not to discount, by any means, the reality that Mount Rainier’s system has produced quite a number of small earthquakes for years now that indicate it is waking up after centuries of sleep. Yes, Rainier is overdue, and when it does blow – maybe in our lifetimes, maybe not – the destruction may well dwarf what Mount St. Helens accomplished in 1980. But at the moment, more activity is happening at Mount St. Helens where survivors still tell stories of what it was like to walk away from that natural disaster. It is still fresh in the memory bank, and it still garners more attention because of that.
In 2016, strictly due to the number of earthquakes along the edge of the Pacific plate, seismic activity is receiving a lot of attention. The volcanoes of the Cascade system are a part of the Ring of Fire around the Pacific Ocean that does include the San Andreas fault which we have been assured is locked, loaded and ready to rattle California. The truth is that we don’t know when any of this is going to happen, and we may never know until the day it does. However, given the advances in detection technology even amateur volcanologists and preppers are sounding alerts like this:
So, yes, Mount Rainier is a dangerous volcano that is showing signs of life, but the reality is that Mount St. Helens may give us another show before her big brother blows his top again.