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Future Eruptions of Mount Baker

Potential volcanic hazards at Mount Baker....
Potential volcanic hazards at Mount Baker. (Public domain.)

Mount Baker is presently not showing signs of renewed magmatic activity, but it will surely become restless again. Future magmatic eruptions at Mount Baker are likely to be preceded by changes at the volcano that could be detected by modern volcano-monitoring techniques. Magma moving up into a volcanic edifice causes rock fracturing, deforms the ground surface, and releases magmatic gases. Therefore, volcanic seismicity (earthquakes), deformation, and gas studies are the principal monitoring tools that the U. S. Geological Survey employs to detect magma movement. However, because no one tool reliably detects all unrest, or reliably tells us where on the timeline we are between detecting unrest and eruption, it is important to install a diverse suite of monitoring instruments to ensure we are picking up all the warning signs possible. As of 2013, only a minimal number of seismometers are installed near Mount Baker and gas measurements are made on an annual or biannual basis. Deformation monitoring occurs infrequently. The USGS places a high priority on improving the volcano monitoring systems at Mount Baker as part of the National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS) initiative.

When magmatic activity does recur, all the drainages of Mount Baker will be at risk from lahars, and upstream areas will be at risk from pyroclastic flows and lava flows (see hazard zone map). The Door Fumaroles are also a potential site of steam explosions. Steep headwalls on the north flank are also at risk of flank collapse, but Sherman Crater is the most likely area on Mount Baker for renewed failure. Today, if there were a similar increase in activity at Sherman Crater such as occurred in 1975-76, Baker Lake and Lake Shannon would need to be drawn down in order for the lake basins to accommodate lahar inflow without displacing water from the reservoir that could cause downstream flooding.