How often does Mount Shasta erupt?

USGS scientists are currently working on this question.  Mount Shasta doesn’t erupt on a regular timescale.  Research indicates that the volcano erupts episodically with ten or more eruptions occurring in short (500-2,000 year) time periods separated by long intervals (3,000-5,000 years) with few or no eruptions.

Evidence suggests that magma most recently erupted at the surface about 3,200 years ago. However, small eruptions where magma nearly reached the surface, interacted with groundwater, and caused small explosions that redistributed old rocks and debris might have occurred since then. These events are difficult to study and date because the deposits are poorly preserved and do not contain materials that can be dated.

Eruptions during the last 11,000 years produced lava flows and domes on and around the flanks of Mount Shasta. Pyroclastic flows from Shasta’s summit and flank vents extended as far as 20 km (12.4 miles) from the summit. Most of these eruptions also produced large mudflows, many of which travelled several tens of kilometers from Mount Shasta.

Learn more: USGS California Volcano Observatory.

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Can earthquakes trigger volcanic eruptions?

Sometimes, yes. A few large regional earthquakes (greater than magnitude 6) are considered to be related to a subsequent eruption or to some type of unrest at a nearby volcano. However, volcanoes can only be triggered into eruption by nearby tectonic earthquakes if they are already poised to erupt . This requires two conditions to be met: Enough "...

How many eruptions have there been in the Cascades during the last 4,000 years?

Eruptions in the Cascades have occurred at an average rate of one to two per century during the last 4,000 years. Future eruptions are certain. Learn more: Eruptions in the Cascade Range During the Past 4,000 Years USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory

How much ash was there from the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens?

During the 9 hours of vigorous eruptive activity on May 18, 1980, about 540 million tons of ash from Mount St. Helens fell over an area of more than 22,000 square miles (57,000 square kilometers). The total volume of the ash before its compaction by rainfall was about 0.3 cubic mile (1.3 cubic kilometers), equivalent to an area the size of a...

How far did the ash from Mount St. Helens travel?

The May 18, 1980 eruptive column at Mount St. Helens fluctuated in height through the day, but the eruption subsided by late afternoon. By early May 19, the eruption had stopped. By that time, the ash cloud had spread to the central United States. Two days later, even though the ash cloud had become more diffuse, fine ash was detected by systems...

How dangerous are pyroclastic flows?

A pyroclastic flow is a hot (typically >800 °C, or >1,500 °F ), chaotic mixture of rock fragments, gas, and ash that travels rapidly (tens of meters per second) away from a volcanic vent or collapsing flow front. Pyroclastic flows can be extremely destructive and deadly because of their high temperature and mobility. For example, during the...

When did Lassen Peak last erupt?

The most recent eruptive activity at Lassen Peak (California) took place in 1914-1917. This eruptive episode began on May 30, 1914, when a small phreatic eruption occurred at a new vent near the summit of the peak. More than 150 explosions of various sizes occurred during the following year. By mid-May 1915, the eruption changed in character; lava...

What was the largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century?

The world's largest eruption of the 20th century occurred in 1912 at Novarupta on the Alaska Peninsula. An estimated 15 cubic kilometers of magma was explosively erupted during 60 hours beginning on June 6th. This volume is equivalent to 230 years of eruption at Kilauea (Hawaii) or about 30 times the volume erupted by Mount St. Helens (Washington...

Which volcanoes in the conterminous United States have erupted since the Nation was founded?

Excluding steam eruptions, these volcanoes have shown activity: Mount St. Helens, Washington - Eruptions and/or lava dome growth occurred in the late 1700s, 1800-1857, 1980-1986, and 2004-2007. Lassen Peak, California - A series of steam blasts began on May 30, 1914. An eruption occurred 12 months later on May 21, 1915. Minor activity continued...

Where does the United States rank in the number of volcanoes?

The United States ranks third, behind Indonesia and Japan, in the number of historically active volcanoes (that is, those for which we have written accounts of eruptions). In addition, about 10 percent of the more than 1,500 volcanoes that have erupted in the past 10,000 years are located in the United States. Most of these volcanoes are found in...

What was the most destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States?

The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens (Washington) was the most destructive in the history of the United States. Novarupta (Katmai) Volcano in Alaska erupted considerably more material in 1912, but owing to the isolation and sparse population of the region, there were no human deaths and little property damage. In contrast, the eruption of...

What is the "Ring of Fire"?

Most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions do not strike randomly but occur in specific areas, such as along plate boundaries. One such area is the circum-Pacific Ring of Fire , where the Pacific Plate meets many surrounding tectonic plates. The Ring of Fire is the most seismically and volcanically active zone in the world. Learn more: U.S. Volcanoes...

What are some benefits of volcanic eruptions?

Over geologic time, volcanic eruptions and related processes have directly and indirectly benefited mankind: Volcanic materials ultimately break down and weather to form some of the most fertile soils on Earth, cultivation of which has produced abundant food and fostered civilizations. The internal heat associated with young volcanic systems has...
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Date published: February 9, 2012

Say Hello to CalVO: USGS California Volcano Observatory Opens

The U.S. Geological Survey announces the establishment of the USGS California Volcano Observatory, or CalVO, headquartered within existing USGS facilities in Menlo Park, Calif. Establishing CalVO will increase awareness of and resiliency to the volcano threats in California, many of which pose significant threats to the economy and well being of the state and its inhabitants.

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July 28, 2016

July Public Lecture — USGS CalVO: It's not just earthquake country!

Volcanic eruptions occur int he State about as frequently as the large San Andreas Fault Zone earthquakes. California's "watch list" volcanoes are dispersed throughout the State and future eruptions are inevitable—the likelihood of renewed volcanism is on the order of one in a few hundred to one in a few thousand annually.

With Margaret Mangan, Scientist-in-Charge,

Lassen Peak Eruption
April 18, 2016

Lassen Peak Eruption

Twilight photo of cone-shaped mountain with snow on top  and city lights at its base
December 31, 2000

Mount Shasta with city lights

Twilight image of snow-covered Mount Shasta. Lights from the town of Weed, California are visible at the mountain's base.