Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Something Called 'Volcano Monitoring'"

Oct. 20, 1991 -- ©R.A. Jensen

Many of the major features of Newberry Caldera are visible in this photo. Note Paulina Lake (left), Interlake Obsidian Flow (between lakes), Little Crater (center foreground), Central Pumice Cone (center background), Big Obsidian Flow (lower right), and East Lake (right).

Image from The Deschutes & Ochoco National Forests Webpages... a gallery of geology-related imagery from the general area can be accessed here.

KGW has picked up an excellent article from the Bend Bulletin on the installation of a set of seismic stations on Newberry Volcano, in order to monitor the area for indications of future eruptions. There's also a nice aerial photo of Lava Butte, which lies on the NW flank of the shield volcano, along route 97, a few miles south of Bend.

Because of this, the USGS is planning to add eight seismic monitoring stations next summer on Newberry Volcano, which the agency classifies as a "very high threat."

But that doesn't mean new buttes or obsidian flows are going to pop up in Central Oregon next week, or even in the next century -- so people shouldn't sell their homes, Donnelly-Nolan said.

"The chances it's going to happen any time in our lifetime is very small," she said, but when the volcano does start to rumble, it could cause a lot of damage. "Imagine the disruption from just having a little lava flow across Highway 97," she said.
I really like the way the author, Kate Ramsayer, describes the risk in this passage. It is indeed "a very high threat," but it's probably not immediate. This sort of monitoring project will, in the event of an event, most likely extend the warning ahead of an eruption. Just as satellite observation of the atmosphere allows us a few days warning for severe weather events, seismic monitoring can give us days or weeks notice to prepare for volcanic eruptions, rather than being taken by surprise.

Here's the area in Google Maps, and here's a Flash Earth link.
View Larger Map

This area has a tremendous variety of volcanic and other landforms, and is a real delight for anyone with an interest in geology.


SkinnyDennis said...

Ooh, I've been there! About 20 years ago. The obsidian field is amazing.

Lockwood said...

I've been to the area numerous times, but I FINALLY made it to the top of Paulina Peak for the view in the first picture four summers ago- one of the last check-offs in my "to see and do in Oregon" list.

SkinnyDennis said...

Is it much of a hike up there?

Lockwood said...

There is a trail- I want to say about 5-6 miles with ~2500 ft elevation gain, but there's also a road right up to the top. We took the latter. The problem is that both are only open 2-3 months out of the year, depending on the snow. Generally late July through August are good, but I tend to avoid the east side during the height of summer.

SkinnyDennis said...

Thanks. I'll mentally bookmark that, one of these days I'll get back up that direction. Wow, 8000ft! I'd forgotten how high the peak is.