The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) just gave the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) permits to install four new seismometers on Glacier Peak. The volcano deep within the Cascades currently has only one seismometer and is the least monitored volcano in the entire mountain range from British Columbia to Northern California. The USGS can install the new sensors and upgrade the existing one as early as this summer and at the latest, next summer. Crews plan to pack equipment within backpacks and limit the need for helicopter air support.

The additional seismic sensors will provide more monitoring of one of the most explosive volcanoes in the nation, and forestall any single points of failure. Since the end of the ice age, Glacier Peak has produced some of the largest and most explosive eruptions, six in the last 14,000 years with the latest episode about 1100 through 1800 years ago, according to the USGS. Out of all the Cascade Mountain range volcanoes, only Mount St. Helens has had similar types of explosive eruptions.

Like Mount St. Helens, Glacier Peak has produced not only large plumes of volcanic ash and debris, but also lahars (mud flows) into the Sauk and North Fork of the Stillaguamish Rivers that flowed all the way into Puget Sound. The additional seismic sensors will give authorities greater lead time to warn about potential volcanic hazards including lahars. NOAA Weather Radio receivers will provide instant alerts at any hour of the day in homes, businesses, et al, from these authorities if the volcano were to erupt. Broadcasters will also carry these emergency volcano messages as well as cell phone alerts and other resources.

The volcano is in the heart of the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. The peak was not known by settlers to be a volcano until the 1850’s when Native Americans informed naturalist George Gibbs that ‘another smaller peak to the north of Mount Rainier once smoked’, according to the USGS. Given the 10,541 foot volcano is deep within the Cascades away from major population centers, Glacier Peak tends to be overlooked, including its hazards. Over a dozen trails lead into the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area, according to the USFS.

In the near future, Glacier Peak will have a small suite of seismometers to monitor for any signs of earthquakes that could be involved with the volcano reawakening, and join all the other fully monitored volcanoes in the Cascade Mountain Range.