Mitigating Hazards at Cascade Range Volcanoes

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The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was monumental in so many different ways. It had a huge impact on the geography of southwestern Washington, ash affected many people, lives were lost, and lessons were learned. The eruption also led to the creation of the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington. Seth Moran talks about three of CVO’s mission areas—Cascade volcano research, monitoring and community preparedness, in this presentation for the Sno-Isle Libraries’ 2021 Whidbey Reads program.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:49:19

Location Taken: Vancouver, WA, US


Good afternoon, everybody.

I know that you've had a number of people from

our office speak as part of this series over the last several weeks.

And you've got a great speaker coming up next week with Steve Olson.

What I'm hoping to do today is cover the topic of

monitoring the Cascade Range volcanoes, but more importantly,

giving you a sense of what this group is that is called the Cascades Volcano Observatory,

who we are, what we do,

what our mission is, and how we do our work.

Just get into this with showing, first off,

I picture of the staff at CVO.

This is a couple years ago,

pre-pandemic times when nobody was having to worry about wearing masks, good times.

The staff, there's about 80 folks at CVO who work there,

not all of them on the Cascades.

There's others that do international work and others that work in other observatories.

But this is a big group that has a lot of different specialties.

Throughout the course of this talk,

I'll be introducing you to the span of things that people do there.

Just as a teaser,

not everybody is a volcanologist.

CVO was born out of the May 18th,

1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Before that, there was no observatory in the Pacific Northwest.

We were officially brought into being in 1982.

Next year, we're going to hit our 40th anniversary.

The reason why CVO was established was that the Mount St.

Helens eruption was so monumental in so many different ways,

obviously it had a huge impact on the geography of southwestern Washington.

The ash impacted many people,

many lives were lost.

It was also a tremendously well-understood, well-recorded eruption,

and many lessons were there to be learned in the coming years.

And scientists knew that even back in 1982, and so there

was this effort to establish a permanent outpost.

That was the main reason for the birth of CVO.

CVO is located in Vancouver, Washington.

Right here on the border between Washington,

Oregon. Portland, Oregon is just across the river.

We are not located in Vancouver, British Columbia,

which is a not uncommon thing that people understandably get mixed up.

We are one of five observatories in the US Geological Survey's observatory system.

The other four are the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, which is our oldest.

It's been around since 1912.

Then the Alaska Volcano Observatory,

where I started off working back in the '90s,

and then Yellowstone Volcano Observatory and the California Volcano Observatory.

Collectively, we divvy up the 161 active US volcanoes,

which are shown here with the red triangles.

By active, what we mean is that magma has come out of

the ground at least at some point in the last 12,000 years.

The last 12,000 years,

the significance of that is the end of the last ice age.

The ice age wiped out lots of evidence of past eruptions,

so the geologic record is really most thorough,

most complete, for the last 12,000 years.

So that's our best understanding of eruption histories.

We work as a group.

We work under a common organization, a common bureaucracy,

which may seem a little bit trivial to understand,

but it becomes very important when we have a large eruption happening

under one of our feet.

That happened in 2018 with the Kilauea 2018 eruption.

During the course of the three months of that crisis,

many staff came from these other observatories to help

out our sisters and brothers at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

That was made easier by the fact that we're all

part of one broad system that collectively is

responsible for mitigating volcanic hazards in the United States.

This map here shows the locations of all of

the active volcanic centers in the Western US, the lower 48.

The colors here I'll talk about in a minute.

The main thing is just that for now,

just to see where all of the volcanic centers are.

Pretty much every state in Western US has one,

an actual active volcano, except for Montana,

and east of New Mexico and Colorado,

no volcanoes, the rest of the eastern United States.

It's just here in the West.

Here is CVO again, down by Portland,

and Whidbey Island is up here.

In our part of the world,

there's some very well-known volcanic centers.

One of them is Mount St. Helens,

that's this red triangle here.

Another one is Crater Lake down in

southern Oregon and if any of you have not had a chance to visit it yet,

strongly recommend, it's a beautiful place to go.

One of the few places where you can go and be inside a volcano.

Then there's some less well-known volcanoes like Glacier Peak,

which is one of the two volcanoes that's

closest to Whidbey Island, the other being Mount Baker.

Glacier Peak is not that well-known in

large part because it's in the middle of a wilderness,

the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

It's not easy to see from Puget Sound,

it's not easy to get to.

Also, it's not obviously,

as obvious a volcano as is say,

Mount Rainier because it has all these peaks around it.

But it is a place where there's been some interesting geologic eruptive history,

and I'll talk about that in a little while.

Then another volcanic center that's really not well-known

is Diamond Craters way out here in southeastern Oregon.

There's a variety of volcanoes,

some that people know about, some that people don't know about in our world.

One thing I just want to convey to you is that Washington, Oregon,

really interesting places to be in the perspective of volcanism.

There's one place where you can go,

where you can have what many people in my office would consider to be a perfect day,

which is a 10 volcano day where you can stand in one place and see

10 volcanoes if there's no smoke in the air and it's all clear.

I'm going to show you a picture here that I took from a place.

It's just north of Bend,

this is like maybe 12 years ago now.

That was a 10 volcano day for me and here are the 10 volcanoes going from south to north,

Mount Bachelor, Three Sisters, Belknap Crater,

Mount Washington, Black Butte,

Mount Jefferson, and Mount Hood.

Then actually, I could see Mount Adams off in

the distance and then over here on the left, there is Newberry.

So it was actually more than a 10 volcano day.

This is one of the few places on Earth where you can do this.

There's not many places on Earth that have this high a concentration of

volcanic centers in one location.

It really is a special part of living in the Pacific Northwest,

is having landscapes like this.

Another thing that's unique about where we live is a feature

of where the Cascades Volcano Observatory is, where we're located.

CVO is located actually right there.

I'm speaking to you today from Camas,

which is located, my house is just right there.

These red dots here correspond to the locations of

volcanic centers that have erupted in the last several million years.

The most recent one was 57,000 years ago.

Geologic studies from about a decade ago tell us that

these centers erupt about every 10,000-15,000 years,

which is a very long time apart and there hasn't been one since the last ice age.

But it's something that is considered to be an active field and it's a geological oddity.

It's not something that people really understand,

the reasons why there's volcanoes happening here.

This is a fair ways to the west

of the Cascade Arc where the standard charismatic volcanoes are.

CVO actually has a volcano very close to it called Green Mountain.

This is a cinder cone that erupted several 100,000 years ago.

Volcanism has played a large role in what we see on the surface of the Earth,

and there's some really interesting places to go visit and look and see.

As far as the job of CVO,

we mainly are focused on volcanic hazards from the here and now,

the volcanoes that have the most likely potential to

erupt and to cause problems for people.

This map now shows the turf of CVO,

which is mostly Washington and Oregon.

CalVO has California and Nevada.

These triangles correspond to

the 21 volcanoes that have erupted in the last 12,000 years.

Now the colors, I showed this before with different colors,

and I'll explain the colors now what they mean.

These correspond to different threat levels that have been assigned

by a USGS study that looked at all of the 161 volcanoes in the US,

and ranked them based on two factors.

One was the hazard,

which is basically what has the volcano done?

What can it do?

How frequently has it erupted?

How explosively has it erupted?

You get a score for that.

Then the exposure factor of how much of a society is exposed to this.

That has to do with how many people live close to it.

What kind of infrastructure is nearby?

Are there air routes that go nearby and things like that. So these two things.

Out of that, there were 18 categorized as very high threat in Alaska,

Hawaii, but not Yellowstone, and in California.

Of those 18, eight are in Washington and Oregon.

They're Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier,

Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood,

Three Sisters, Newberry and Crater Lake.

Then there's also a ninth that comes in,

just one tick below,

and that's Mount Adams, a high threat.

The importance of these colors is that the red triangles and also the orange one,

are ones where we are prioritizing monitoring.

We are understanding the volcanic hazards and

mitigating those hazards through monitoring networks.

That's part of the work that I will be presenting to you today.

One overall summary statement,

some of you may not remember the last time there was a Cascade volcano that erupted,

that was Mount St. Helens because volcanoes in the Cascades don't erupt that often.

Certainly in comparison to Kilauea,

to other countries like Japan,

or Indonesia, or in the Caribbean,

the volcano that erupted a couple weeks ago.

What we know is that on average,

there are two eruptions per century going back as far as we can go.

There are often multi-year eruptions.

Mount St. Helens 1980, erupted from 1980-86,

and then in 2004 erupted for 2004-2008,

so for 10 years over that time frame.

Often it is multi-year.

Mount Hood erupted from 1781-1790 thereabouts.

What we say is that about 10 percent of the time

a volcano in the Cascades is going to be erupting.

What that means for people that are living in the Pacific Northwest,

is that you should expect to be here if you're here for your entire life,

for at least one eruption and it's probably Mount St. Helens,

but it could be other volcanoes as well.

To put that into some perspective,

this magnitude 9 earthquake that hopefully you all know about,

as a potential thing that can happen in our future,

the last one happened on January 26th, 1700.

Geologic investigations have shown that

those large earthquakes happen on average about every 450-500 years.

When the big earthquakes happen, big consequence up and down the West Coast,

means lots of impact, lots of places.

To put the volcano hazard in comparison to that,

any individual eruption will not merely be

as high consequence as the next magnitude 9 earthquake,

but it will still be high consequence.

In between each of those magnitude 9 earthquakes 450, 500 years,

there will be between nine and 10 eruptions at Cascade volcanoes.

It's a more frequent occurrence than the large earthquakes,

much less hazardous, but nevertheless still high consequence.

With volcano hazards, I'm going to

pivot now and focus more on the specifics of what we do,

and how we work with volcano hazards.

The first thing to talk about is what do we mean by volcano hazards?

This slide, pretty nicely shows,

captures all the different kinds of things that can happen

at a volcano during eruptions and not during eruptions.

We can have landslides independent of eruptions,

we can have the lahars,

which are volcanic mudflows, independent of eruptions,

and not all eruptions feature all of these things.

There are some volcanoes that erupt explosively,

other volcanoes that have lava flows,

lava domes, and not too much explosivity.

Part of the goal of volcano research or volcano geology is

to understand the eruption history of each volcano that is in our midst.

That not only tells us how frequently

it's erupted and how likely it is to erupt again in the future,

but also what style of eruption typically does each volcano have.

One of the things that I would like you to leave with is that

each volcano has its own personality.

Yeah, its own personality.

The remarkable thing is that history tends to repeat itself.

It's a good thing to understand the geologic history, the eruptive history,

the styles that had happened in the past,

because those are the most likely things to happen at volcanoes in the future.

Volcano hazards is in three broad areas.

The first is research. Of asking

questions about volcanoes like how frequently does it erupt?

Or where is magma located beneath the volcano?

Then trying to answer those questions by doing various kinds of investigations.

The second is monitoring.

Again, this is where we mitigate the hazards

by putting up instrumentation that will give us as early warning as possible,

that the volcanoes waking up and give us data that we can

use to interpret the likelihood of eruptive activity,

and maybe also say some things about the style of eruptive activity.

Then the final thing is community preparedness and this is to make sure that people

are ready to hear the messages that we're bringing when a volcano wakes up,

and that they know what to do.

That it's just not coming out of the blue,

they're wondering, "Who is the Cascades Volcano Observatory

and what do they know about what's going on out there?"

These are the three areas that we've

learned are important for us to be successful in our job.

And I'd now like to walk you through examples of each of those three areas.

First, with research.

One really important part,

a key element of research is in understanding eruptive histories.

I already talked about that a little bit before.

The primary way to do that is through geologic field investigations.

This is a photograph taken a few miles east of Glacier Peak,

which is one of the two closest to Whidbey Island.

What this shows is a big pile of what looks like sand.

It has these labels here,

G tephra and B tephra.

Tephra is a geologic term for ash,

and what this means,

some geologists have written on this slide.

What they're saying is that there's two different ash layers that were

deposited by Glacier Peak in an eruption 13,600 years ago.

To give you a sense of scale of these,

here is one field geologist and there's another one over here that's not circled.

This person's about six-foot tall,

so that gives you some sense of scale.

These are tens of feet thick deposits of ash,

a lot of stuff.

It turns out that 13,600 years ago,

Glacier Peak produced an eruption that was

about five times the size of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

That's a little bit eye-catching when you hear that number.

It hasn't done that since,

so it's not something that's considered very likely,

but it's something that it does have in its playbook as a possibility.

It's these kinds of investigations,

looking at exposures, tall and small,

that are important for unearthing the geologic history of

what's happened at individual volcanoes.

With investigations that have been happening up and down

the Cascade Range over the last 50 years,

recently, we've been able to assemble this image,

it's a very powerful image, I think for me,

that shows the eruptive history over the last 4,000 years,

which is our most complete sense of the geologic record.

What you can do with this,

I'm guessing many of you have already started doing this is, most of you,

each of these volcanic icons,

is that moment in time when geologists know that a volcano erupted.

What you can do with this is count the number of volcano icons

and come up with the answer to the question,

which Cascade volcano is the most frequently active?

The answer to that is Mount St. Helens,

followed by Mount Rainier and then Glacier Peak,

and then going down to California,

it's Mount Shasta and Medicine Lake.

This is a really important,

powerful thing to be able to say.

It does inform our messaging about

what is the most likely volcano to erupt in

the Cascades next and the answer to that is Mount St. Helens,

based purely on the principle that the past is the best guide to the future.

It's really as simple as that.

But this reflects lots and lots of time out in the field,

and also in the laboratory coming up with

the ages for deposits that people are finding and things like that.

Zooming in on Glacier Peak, actually before that I'll go back.

One important thing to notice,

of the two volcanoes that are closest to Whidbey Island that are red, very high threat.

Mount Baker, you'll notice has no volcano icons except for one out here that

corresponds to an event in 1843, no magma reached the surface,

but there was an explosion, produced a landslide,

it would definitely catch people's attention today were it to happen again.

That was legit, but there's been

no eruptions in the sense of

magma coming out of the ground at Mount Baker over this time frame,

whereas Glacier Peak has had a number.

In terms of the likelihood of something happening,

Glacier Peak is the place that has the higher likelihood.

Just want to focus in on that just for a little bit from that perspective.

Here's what we know about Glacier Peak.

At present, it's had several pulses of eruptions that were 13,000,

14,000 years ago, 5-7,

1-2,500, and also possibly a few 100 years ago.

Now, you can see from this picture that Glacier Peak is a place that gets a lot of snow,

lot of ice, there's a reason why it's called Glacier Peak.

It's a place that's very difficult to work on,

very difficult to access,

and because of that,

the primary geologic investigations are still happening today out there.

It is likely that there will be evidence of small eruptions that will be found in

the coming years that will fill

out our understanding of what's happened at Glacier Peak.

But this is what it looks like in detail,

this graphic down here, that about every 1,000 years or so,

there has been an eruption at Glacier Peak going back the last 3,000 or 4,000 years.

This is a place that has definitely, an active volcano,

although it may not look like it in this picture.

I mentioned that there's active geologic investigations

ongoing right now at Glacier Peak.

It's quite possible that there will be

more triangles to fill in this line and maybe it will change its ranking.

That in fact happened at Mount Rainier a decade ago,

actually more than a decade ago now.

What we thought about Mount Rainier was this, only four icons.

But in the early aughts, there was very,

very careful geologic investigations that were

done that teased out more eruptions.

This is what we think of today and it went from number five to number

two and it's quite possible the same thing could happen at Glacier Peak.

This is an example of the importance of research,

really giving us the information we need to make

informed decisions about what volcanoes to prioritize our work on,

what volcanoes to communicate to communities,

or ones that people should be thinking about.

Also to inform monitoring strategies and

what volcanoes we really should be thinking about focusing on.

Continuing on with Glacier Peak just for a little while,

so also something that happens with geologic mapping is mapped deposits

that are produced by eruptions and one of the results of that is a hazard map.

This map shows the pink area is the area that's close to Glacier Peak.

This is a place you would not want to be

when a volcano awakens, glaciers melt, volcanic bombs fall out of the air,

where rivers of hot gases can sweep down the slopes and get there pretty quickly.

Then we've got lahars as another big hazard.

Lahar is an Indonesian term for a volcanic mud flow,

and it's something that happens when you have a lot of ice and snow or water,

and you get hot rock on top of that snow and ice, that melts

it and you get a big flood coming down,

but it's a different kind of a flood.

There's Whidbey Island, sorry, down here for geographic reference,

how close you are to Glacier Peak.

These are pictures from Mount St. Helens that show what

happened during 1980 with

very large lahars that were produced during the May 18 eruption.

Here's a smaller lahar in 1982 that was produced by

an explosion that put hot rock on top of snow and created this slurry.

You can see that the deposit it leaves behind,

looks a lot like cement.

It is pretty tough stuff and it's very destructive because it can float boulders.

Here, I've got a video that is a much, much smaller version of a lahar.

This is something that's called a debris flow,

but it's the same principle.

This is taken at Mount Rainier nearby by tourists

in 2015, so six years ago now.

The debris flow is coming towards us and you'll

notice that it's carrying trees on top of it.

I'll just let you watch this a little bit.

"I'm scared. Get back.

I'm scared. This is all dry.

There hasn't been water down here, look at all this."

Look at all these trees that it is carrying, the trees are about,

I don't know, 50 feet long, big trees.

And that interacts

with bridges like a battering ram we've been talking about.

"Look at that tree,

that's like 50 feet tall tree going down."

Here behind you can see-

"The ground is shaking."

in that particular flow

there are boulders that are being carried and that in a regular flood,

a water-based flood,

would not be able to carry.


"Look at that tree how tall that is."

Moving on, on a large-scale,

that's the thing that could happen during

the Glacier Peak eruption if there was a significant eruption.

All the snow and ice up there,

we'd expect to have lahars coming down.

This color scheme corresponds to the likelihood of it reaching different places.

Darrington would be a place that we would be concerned about and would be working

with the community there to have evacuation plans in place, and so on.

Arlington would be much less likely,

particularly because there's not right now

a direct connection between river channels down to there.

Also going up here towards possibly Concrete and Hamilton,

but these are fairly low likelihood things in terms of the lahar event itself.

But what would happen in the following days and weeks would be,

there's a lot of sediment that gets deposited in

here and that sediment would make its way down here

and cause flooding in weeks and months and years to come following that.

One person once said that lahars are the gifts that keep on giving.

It is a hazard initially when it happens,

but then the problems that it creates in terms of flooding

in stream valleys can last for decades after the eruption is actually finished.

The other big consideration for Glacier Peak or

any eruption that happens when you're not in the near field is ash.

This is a picture

of ash distribution that happen from a Mount St. Helens eruption on June 12th of 1980.

This hachured mark, this is from the Oregon Journal,

this hachured area shows where ashfall was

reported and it made it all the way to Tacoma and

down to Portland and Salem and even over to the coast,

which is really weird that it went that far west,

given that winds mostly blow west to east.

What ash looks like when it lands,

even a small amount of ash, a millimeter,

which is less than a quarter of an inch [~1/16 in] it looks like this.

This is what Portland looked like the day following.

It looks like fog, mist,

but it's these little particles of ash that are really

annoying and can be hard on equipment and hard on machinery,

and also hard to get rid of.

Really the best way to get rid of them is with water and spraying off things.

You don't want to wipe your windshield ever, you want to get the stuff off with water.

A decent question to ask is for a Glacier Peak,

what is the likelihood of Whidbey Island ever receiving ash from Glacier Peak?

This is another example of applicability of research.

We know from understanding the Glacier Peak volcanic history that

the most likely eruption to happen at Glacier Peak

is not the 13,600 year big explosive one,

but actually one that's more like what happened at Mount St. Helens, say in 2004.

It's a small dome that collapsed

and produced some ash into the air, not a ton.

We know that there have been four of those in the last 10,000 years.

That's a probability of once every 2,500 years.

That's one number that we can put into this question of

what's the likelihood of ash falling on Whidbey Island?

Another part of this is,

where would the ash go if it were to go into the air?

We have a person at our office, Larry Mastin, who studies

what happens to ash when it gets into the air. It involves bringing

wind field data and volumes of modeling how ash falls out of clouds.

It's a terribly complex process,

but in this modeling, one thing that he does is he uses historic wind field data,

just takes random 1,000 days of wind field data,

takes it from straight from the weather service and does 1,000 run.

From that, he puts together this map that shows that that 30 percent of the time there's

a millimeter of ash that's produced within

this area and 10 percent of the time, this area.

Out here is the one percent number.

One percent of the time,

an eruption is big enough and the winds are blowing far enough in the right direction.

For one millimeter of ash,

or about a quarter of an inch [~1/16 in] of ash to land there.

That's the other number to put into this calculator is

one percent chance of 0.04 inches falling on Whidbey Island if there's an eruption.

In order to come up with this magic probability,

we take the one percent chance,

if there's an eruption, with the chance of an eruption and we multiply them together.

What comes out of that is a

1 in 25,000 annual chance or

a one and nine million, of ash falling on the communities in

Whidbey Island from an eruption at Glacier Peak.

To put those numbers in perspective,

Powerball odds on a one-off basis is one in over 290 million.

Chances are better than winning the Powerball,

which is always something good to keep in mind when you think about doing Powerball.

On the other hand, your odds of getting into a car accident are much higher.

The way that I like to think of this is that this helps me understand what

my personal risk is and what things I should really be focusing on.

It's easy to focus on eruptions and go,

"whoo, that could be really bad."

But the reality is that the thing that we all do every day,

most days, getting into a car,

that's something that we really need to pay attention to in terms of

minimizing our risk to our personal selves on a day-to-day basis.

This isn't to say that wouldn't happen.

When Glacier Peak wakes up again,

then the chances become a lot greater.

But this is just something as

a useful data point to keep in the back of one's mind. That's research.

Next thing to focus on is monitoring.

Monitoring is where we mitigate volcanic hazards through

providing society with information that needs to understand what it should do,

especially if a volcano wakes up.

The basic idea behind monitoring is that as magma moves towards the surface,

it breaks a pathway,

and so it creates earthquakes that we can measure with seismometers.

It releases gases as it gets closer to the surface.

Pressure is less, and that allows gases that are kept inside the magma to escape.

This is equivalent to what happens when you have a can

of Coke and you shake up the can of Coke and then you can see bubbles,

but the bubbles are staying inside the Coke until you take off the lid.

Once you take off the lid, all the bubbles come out.

Taking off the lid is reducing the pressure on the soda that's inside.

It's the same exact principle,

as magma moves upwards,

the pressure is less and that allows more of

the gas that's stored in the magma to come out.

That gas will make its way up the vent and can be measured at the surface.

There are particular gases,

carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide,

that are very diagnostic for telling us that magma is on the move.

The last thing is that as magma moves around,

it changes position and it changes volume.

That results in changes of locations on the surface,

what we call surface deformation.

It's swelling of the surface or sagging of the surface.

Those also are indicators that we can use to determine is magma moving?

Where is it moving? How much magma is down there?

To detect those early warning signs,

there's a whole array of different types of instrumentation that we use.

Standard ones are things that look at deformation.

Nowadays we use GPS,

which is what all of us have on our cell phones that tell us where we are.

In this case, we put the GPS instruments out in the field.

Their job is to tell us where the location of that spot over and over and over,

and we can tell if that spot has moved by a millimeter,

which is less than a quarter of an inch [~1/16 in],

and very, very small ground motions can be detected that way.

With gas monitoring, we use

both ground-based and air-based forms of looking at what's coming out of volcano.

For earthquakes, we work with various centers that pick up ground vibrations,

both from earthquakes, but also we can use

that for looking at lahars and other things.

Then there's other detections,

other ways to record information.

We can use drones, we can use helicopters for doing thermal imaging, and cameras,

just for being our eyes out there and telling us what's happening on the ground.

Satellites are also important,

also for tracking ash as well as hotspots and deformation.

It's a whole wide range of things that can be done in monitoring.

Typically, what we focus on right now are installing seismic and GPS station.

Seismic and deformation monitoring stations.

This shows a site down at Newberry,

which is near Bend, Oregon, south of Bend, Oregon.

This has a GPS instrument,

this dome here is picking up

satellite transmissions and sending it over to a box over here.

Then we also have a seismometer buried in the ground right here.

These solar panels charge batteries that are inside this enclosure.

The enclosure is about five foot tall.

You can see a colleague of mine, their hat just barely sticking over the rim.

My colleague there is about five foot six,

that gives you a sense of how big it is.

Then a radio antenna that we use to beam

the data out to a place where it makes its way back to the observatory.

This site was installed in 2011 and it's been happily operating ever since then.

It's a very quiet site and we can see a lot things with it.

A non-standard site, is this one at Mount Rainier.

We're looking straight on the west face of Mount Rainier into the Sunset Amphitheater.

This red circle shows a site that's located at about 11,000 feet.

It's totally surrounded by glacial ice,

very difficult to get to by foot.

We often use helicopters to get to it.

This is what it looks like up close and personal.

The big ice falls all around it.

We have this right there because we need to be close to

the volcano with some of our sites to be able to detect very small earthquakes,

and very small amounts of ground deformation.

This is a site from Mount St. Helens showing

one of the difficulties of doing this work in the Cascades.

Snow is a big deal.

We get lots of snow,

especially high altitudes, and sometimes we have to go out and unbury them.

This is a site that's in the crater of Mount St. Helens,

it's a really important site to keep operational.

Sometimes we do go out there and literally just dig a whole lot of

snow to unearth the site and get it running again.

Efforts over the last decade have resulted in improved networks up and down the Cascades.

This gives you a sense of where the networks are.

Mount St. Helens is the gold standard

as it should be because it has had two eruptive cycles.

Mount Rainier is pretty close.

Mount Hood is pretty close,

but you can see that Glacier Peak has just one seismometer.

Mount Baker has three seismometers and these are two places where we are focusing

on right now to try and improve the monitoring situation there.

At Glacier Peak, every

once in a while a volcano gives you a reminder of the importance of doing something.

Right on Thanksgiving eve in 2015,

there was a mini-swarm.

Here is Glacier Peak right here,

and we've got one station.

That's the one station located fairly close to the volcano.

These blue circles here are earthquakes from the historic catalog.

These yellow circles here show the locations of two Magnitude 3+ earthquakes,

not small events, that happened in fairly rapid succession of each other.

The network here is so poor that the errors on these earthquakes,

we don't really know whether they are low.

They could've been underneath the volcano or off to the side.

There were a half dozen earthquakes in total.

This is an example of a kind of thing that can sometimes lead to

the start of a crisis at a volcano.

This is how Mount St. Helens started in 1980 with a Magnitude 4, out of the blue.

In this case, luckily nothing happened.

It started and stopped.

But here's the Magnitude 3, here's the 3.4.

Here's a couple of other aftershocks, and then that was it.

This is just an illustration that Glacier Peak is

an active system and we always have to keep our eyes out.

We are working on a permanent proposal right

now for four news sites out at Glacier Peak.

There's actually five yellow dots,

two of these are alternatives depending on how things work.

We submitted the permanent request initially in 2015.

There is a public comment period coming in 2021,

in the spring, May or June.

If you have comments to make about this,

then pay attention, the Forest Service will send out announcements about this.

That's the monitoring story.

The last piece that I want to talk about is community preparedness.

This is not something that typically

scientists think of or are thought of doing as part of their work.

But there was a major lesson learned by

the global volcano community in a volcano disaster that happened in

Armero, Colombia, in 1985,

there was a volcano called Nevado del Ruiz,

that had been restless for a number of months,

and there were scientists that were working on the eruption.

Then the volcano erupted and scientists were aware

that it had erupted and sent word out.

But for a variety of reasons,

the word never got to the people that were in harm's way.

Two hours later, a massive lava came through and wiped out several towns,

including the town of Armero where over 20,000 people died.

The big part of the tragedy of this, is

that two hours was more than enough time for these people to get out of the way.

All they had to do was walk this way,

go uphill or go this way, go uphill.

There's plenty of time for me to do that if one word had gotten to them.

This was regarded as largely a failure in communication and community preparedness,

and the importance of scientists being involved in

ensuring that that happens was really underscored by this event.

This is something that we do in

the Cascades through things like putting together products like this.

This is from Mount Rainier, but there's a similar product that exists for Glacier Peak,

that I showed you before.

That has not just the hazard map information,

but also information about what you can do.

One of the things that's really important in all this is

that in volcanology we have weird language.

The language of volcanology reflects an international language and reflects

the origins of where people have been doing the work.

One example is Strombolian,

that's a kind of eruption,

and that comes from Stromboli, Italy.

That's an Italian word.

Then there's other terms like lahar,

is an Indonesian term, pyroclastic is sort of a Latin term.

These words that we use,

we have to be careful with jargon,

and we also have to make sure people understand what they are when we say them,

and so lahar is a word that is not part of the common language and so it's

our role to ensure that people understand what we mean when we say,

lahar, and this is a product,

this hazard map product is one of the ways that we attempt to communicate that.

Something else that we've done in the USGS is ensure that we've got

a fairly simple way of communicating hazard levels at different volcanoes,

and this is a system that's used at

all observatories so you can go to Alaska and hear the same thing,

and you'd understand what it would mean.

It's also tied to the National Weather Services alert level system,

normal advisory watch warning,

you have language that directly maps into that so if you're used to hearing

about snowstorm warnings or flood warnings from the National Weather Service,

the language maps into our understanding of alert levels at volcanoes.

Another thing that we do is work with the various groups of partner agencies and

groups that have a vested interest in responding to a crisis at specific volcanoes.

Over the course of the last several decades,

there have been working groups formed

at the major volcanoes from Mount Baker / Glacier Peak,

from Mount Rainier, from Mount St. Helens,

Mount Adams, Mount Hood, to the central Cascades,

and there are plans that have been produced for each of

those that spell out all of the different agencies that

would have a role to play in a crisis response and how we would start communicating.

This is not a response plan in the sense of here's what would you do if a,

b, and c, this is more like how would we get the thing started?

How would we get the response started?

That can be the most difficult thing to begin with.

If nobody knows who anybody else is and you get a crisis going,

you're behind the eight ball already and the response is not going to be as effective.

Hopefully, people feel some sense of assurance that the agencies that will be

responsible for responding to a crisis are talking to each other now,

are thinking about hazards at these specific volcanoes and what steps will be taken

to mitigate the hazards should that specific volcano wake up.

Lots of partners are involved in this.

This is a small spattering of logos from all the different agencies.

There's federal folks, there's universities,

there's regional, there's counties,

there's state-level types of things,

so it's a multi-agency effort in all of the different volcanoes.

We also lastly, try to be out in

the community doing things like having workshops with various partner groups,

producing hazard products like I mentioned before,

and also doing a lot of work with news and social media,

and just want to highlight this at the very end

that we have three active social media accounts,

all under USGS Volcanoes is the tagline to search on for Facebook,

for Twitter, and for Instagram,

and it's an active channel with posts multiple times a day,

as well as daily updates or weekly updates as things proceed.

Something for those of you who are interested in following along to go

check it out after this talk is done.

That's CVO in a nutshell.

I started off showing this picture of these 80 or so folks.

A lot of things that we do and what's

really required is a lot of different kinds of specialties to bring to bear.

So we have a lot of "-ologists"

we have geologists who do the mapping of eruption deposits.

We have people like myself, seismologists,

who study earthquake waves and have more of a physics and a math background.

We have geochemists who are the folks that do work with gas,

they've got more of a chemistry background.

Geodesists are also looking at surface deformation,

they are more physics and math based.

We have people specialized working with satellites.

We've got hydrologists who think a lot about

fluid flow and looking at changes in river channels over time.

These are the folks that model lahars.

We have GIS specialists,

people who help with computers,

people who do physical modeling, computer programmers,

field instrumentation specialists and engineers who are folks that

oftentimes have really great ability to work with their hands,

and so it's not so much a question of people who are going

through and getting their degrees in volcanology to work on volcanoes,

but people who were up working in farms or working out in

the woods have excellent talents that really are important.

We have outreach specialists that help with getting messaging out.

Lastly, we have administrators who are people that help us navigate

the government bureaucracy that we live in and work

in to ensure that we are able to do our jobs safely,

effectively, and without getting afoul of any kind of rules.

The message of this slide is that you don't have to be a scientist,

you don't have to be a volcanologist to work in an observatory.

The beautiful thing about an observatory is

that everybody here has these different trainings,

these different backgrounds but we all get the mission and we all get how

each of us has a role to play and how that role fits in with other roles,

and that really we can't do it by ourselves,

we have to have this larger group,

and it's really as truly a team environment in the end.

Last thing, I'll leave you with is that we

exist because volcanoes in the Cascades are there.

We know that they erupt, they will erupt again.

We know that when they do erupt,

they can awaken very little notice,

this is a plot of earthquakes over a five-day window that shows

earthquakes occurring at Mount St. Helens where we went from nothing on

September 22nd to a full-on crisis on September 27th,

28th, and that all led to this,

which is a picture of my wife took out of our back window on

March 8th, 2005 when there was an explosion that happened at Mount St. Helens.

This was the last time ash was in the air,

but this thing can happen with very little warning,

and so that's the reason why the Cascades Volcano Observatory exists so that

we will be ready the next time something happens in the Cascades.

With that, thank you for your

attention and happy to take any questions.