Eruptions

Happy Earth Science Week!


Mt. Baker in Washington, USA.

The Mount Baker Volcano Research Center (MBVCC) run out of Western Washington University has posted a series of new pictures and movies of the summit region of Mt. Baker (taken from 2006 to 2009). They also sent out links to some great images of the recently-exposed edge of the old crater rim on Mt. Baker. The crater had been buried by the ice/snow cap on the volcano until this year, but John Scurlock was able to capture a photo of the rim of the crater from an airplane this summer. The grey layer is ash/tephra likely from activity at the summit – and likely it is relatively recent activity to be preserved – how recent is anybody’s guess.

There are also a number of videos of the fumarolic activity near the summit of Mt. Baker. These were shot during a gas sampling expedition in 2006/07. David Tucker summarizes the fumarolic activity on Baker as:

The crater has dozens, if not hundreds, of gas vents, mostly a few centimeters across, that emit water vapor, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, and other gases. Gas temperature is right around boiling at 9700 feet elevation- about 91 degrees C.

There is a lot of hydrothermal fluids and gases percolating through the upper reaches of the volcano. This means that a heat source must exist at relatively shallow depths (a few kilometers) underneath the summit – a sign that Baker should not be taken lightly in terms of volcanic monitoring.

With the 2009 Geological Society of America meeting in Portland, OR around the corner, there are a lot of new abstracts for presentations on Mt. Baker on the website as well. You can check some of them out here and they include research on the nature of Baker magmas, the shape of Sherman Crater under the ice and the crust underneath the volcano.

Comments

  1. #1 doug
    October 14, 2009

    Hey thanks for the link to some great pictures! I first climbed Baker in 1973 and then again in 78. In 73 there was quite a lot of steam swirling around in Sherman crater, with huge holes melted through the icecap to some undeterminable depth. Just a few years later the holes were all snowed over or filled in and I didn’t see any fumeroles.

  2. #2 mike don
    October 14, 2009

    Just a thought; if the summit crater rim is now exposed, could that be taken as evidence for global warming, since the ice cover has previously been complete at the summit AFAIK?

    Presumably the fumarole activity mentioned is at Sherman Crater not the summit?

  3. #3 Brian in Bellingham
    October 14, 2009

    We had a particlur warm and dry summer this year (I know, I live in Bellingham, just 40 miles or so from Baker), so that is probably why the crater rim was exposed. Having looked at Baker every clear day for the last 40 years, it doesn’t look any different today then it did 40 years ago.

    We actually have had colder and wetter winters for the most part for the last 5 years, and just 10 years ago or so, Mt. Baker set the world record for most snow in a single year (1140 inches).

  4. #4 doug
    October 14, 2009

    Re. global warming, I’m not sure how much evidence there might be on Baker, but if you head south and east a bit you can find yourself on the South Cascade Glacier, in the North Cascades National Park. This is another place I visited in the 1970s and coincidentaly, has had a research hut perched above it for many decades, I believe managed and staffed by the UW. From a recent article, it looks to me like the toe of the glacier has retreated nearly a half mile since I strolled across it one late September afternoon(having made a navigational error while following the ptarmigan traverse route through the north cascades). The researchers didn’t seem particularly happy to have some unplanned visitors show up outside their site that afternoon in late September, but they were polite. I’ve read that it has lost almost 30% of its total mass since that time, having become both shorter in length and less deep. I think global warming means wackier weather in the puget sound region, but not yet a safe bet for pinot noir vineyards.

    Looping back to subject of Volcanoes, I ever regret not having climbed St. Helens before she popper her top. Though I did get some nice views of her smaller and later eruptions from various points in the area, including while riding the ferry back to Seattle from bainbridge island on an otherwise cloudless day.

    cheers,

  5. #5 stripey_cat
    October 15, 2009

    Brian,
    You can still have local or seasonal cooling within a global mean warming – in fact, you’d probably expect it, as air and sea currents are disrupted (not to mention the normal variation in weather).

  6. #6 Chance Metz
    October 15, 2009

    How can you tell the difference bwtween a global warming and normal variation. A lot of this wamring could actually be normal. It is hard to tell the differnece so it is worng to say it is all from warming. They can’t even get the weather right for today yet alone for the whole world or 10 years from now.

  7. #7 doug
    October 15, 2009

    Chance,

    one measure of global climate change is the frequency, magnitude and direction of extremes and how these affect where plant and animal populations live (including humans). So “never before seen” fish species making a home in the arctic, ones that the human populations that have lived there for thousands of years don’t even have names for, might be a strong indicator that the general direction is towards warming. But since natural variation in the mostly temperate US takes place over decades long cycles, there is little strong evidence for climate change that we can point at in the lower 48, except at the extremes, such as the gradual drift of climate zones towards higher elevations in the cascades, rockies and appalachian mountains. The dissapearance of glaciers from Glacier National Park is one of the few pretty good examples in the lower 48 of visible climate change within our lifetimes.

  8. #8 Chance Metz
    October 15, 2009

    Gaicers retreat and advance all the time though over the course of 100’s of years. Some times the changes are fast at other times they are very slow. This has happend even before man knew how to use fire.

  9. #9 doug
    October 15, 2009

    A good read is “Thin Ice” by Mark Bowen. He was able to hlep show that ice core samples from the high equatorial Andes could help correlate cyclic ocean temperature conditions (ENSO) to the rise and and fall of pre-columbian cities in Equador and Peru. Much of his field work was completed before the whole climate change question became so politicaly charged. Some of his core samples he obtained in the 1970s and 80s contained uninterrupted sequences of over 12,000 years, from the previous season snowfall down to bedrock. Now some of his sample sites have now melted away for the first time in that period.

    The only problem I had with the book is that reading it made me wish I could go back in time and change my college study decisions, less lab and more field work!

  10. #10 Peanut
    October 16, 2009

    re: Doug comment 4:

    The hut is staffed by the USGS scientists who are part of the Benchmark Glacier Study.

    More on South Cascade Glacier here: http://ak.water.usgs.gov/glaciology/south_cascade/index.html

  11. #11 Israel
    October 16, 2009

    hi, i´m from Puebla,Mexico, and i like to know about volcano , i have information , and each week i check new information. In Puebla Mexico has the most important volcano POPOCATEPETL. =)

  12. #12 doug
    October 17, 2009

    Peanut, (comment 10), thank you for the reference to the USGS site. Very interesting reports and photos.

    cheers,

  13. #13 John Galt
    October 19, 2009

    I knew someone would try to link “global warming” to this.

    Is it possible that the crater rim is exposed because it’s a VOLCANO CRATER? – “The crater has dozens, if not hundreds, of gas vents, mostly a few centimeters across, that emit water vapor, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, and other gases. Gas temperature is right around boiling at 9700 feet elevation- about 91 degrees C.”

    “There is a lot of hydrothermal fluids and gases percolating through the upper reaches of the volcano. This means that a heat source must exist at relatively shallow depths (a few kilometers) underneath the summit”

    It just couldn’t be the heat released by the VOLCANO. It’s probably caused by all those people driving SUVs in Bellingham.

  14. #14 mirc indir
    October 19, 2009

    From a recent article, it looks to me like the toe of the glacier has retreated nearly a half mile since I strolled across it one late September afternoon(having made a navigational error while following the ptarmigan traverse route through the north cascades). The researchers didn’t seem particularly happy to have some unplanned visitors show up outside their site that afternoon in late September, but they were polite.
    ———————
    mirc indir google

  15. #15 Linda Silkwood
    December 16, 2010

    do not listen to other people, some of us will always appreciate articles like this.

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