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How Dangerous Are The Northwest’s Volcanoes?

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In Oregon, Washington and Idaho, magma has erupted out of the ground in at least 25 places in the last 10,000 years, a mere instant in the lifetime of volcanoes that can be hundreds of thousands of years old… But what about the other hot spots in the Cascades?

Zoom in on eight of these hot spots—gassy Mount Baker in Washington, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier near Seattle, infamous and active Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, quiet Mount Jefferson, South Sister, Newberry Crater, and incredible Crater Lake, formerly known as Mount Mazama—in this Oregon Public Broadcasting video. In it, we meet scientist Seth Moran and his team at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO):

Moran’s team, along with partners at the University of Washington, keep watch. They measure earthquakes, ground warping and gas emissions, all caused by magma from deep in the earth making its way to the surface. These volcanic vital signs let geologists compare what a volcano is doing today compared to what it normally does and has done in the past.

“That allows us to establish a range of potential behaviors,” Moran said.

And that range helps scientists know if any volcanic behaviors are going beyond the norm, which helps them to inform or warn the general public.

Learn more about how scientists learn about volcanoes in Building a Volcano-bot. Plus: Speed up geologic time with a DIY squeeze box and watch Hawaii – The Pace of Formation.

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