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Earthquake Hazards at Mount Rainier

Earthquakes near Mount Rainier are continuously monitored by a network of seismometers maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey Volcano Hazards Program and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, a part of the University of Washington.

A joint seismic and GPS monitoring site located at Observation Rock approximately 8 km northwest of the summit of Mount Rainier. (Credit: Pauk, Ben. Public domain.)

In a typical year, the monitoring network detects a few hundred earthquakes that occur at or near Mount Rainier, more than any other Cascades Arc volcano except Mount St. Helens. Not all of these earthquakes occur as a result of volcanic processes. More information about this is found on the earthquake monitoring page.

Earthquakes associated with volcanic activity at Mount Rainier will not directly cause major damage to areas surrounding the volcano, but they will give scientists important information about magma movement beneath the volcano. They could, however, potentially trigger landslides, which might result in debris flows or lahars that could cause widespread damage to population centers, like the town of Orting, in the valleys surrounding the volcano.

At the first sign of unusual earthquake activity, scientists from the Geological Survey and other institutions will deploy additional instruments on and around Mount Rainier to monitor earthquakes, deformation, and other symptoms of volcanic unrest. The monitoring information will be used to assess the state of unrest and to issue appropriate advisories and warnings to emergency-response officials and the public.