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Geological study: 5 of Washington’s active volcanoes are under-monitored

Mar 15, 2019, 1:35 PM | Updated: 1:45 pm
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Mount St. Helens. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

The country has 161 active volcanoes quietly scaring its neighbors at the moment, and a new U.S. Geological Survey report says that 57 of them are under-monitored, including five here in Washington. That’s comforting.

What makes a volcano under-monitored? It’s a little more complicated than a security guard watching it on a closed-circuit camera. According to the Cascades Volcano Observatory, a properly monitored volcano should have between 12 and 20 monitoring stations on the ground. But local high-threat volcano Glacier Peak really misses that mark with only one, reports HeraldNet.

RELATED: Witnesses recount devastation after Mount St. Helens eruption

Located 70 miles northeast of Seattle, Glacier Peak first went off about 13,000 years ago, and has exploded numerous times since then, with the most recent around 1700 A.D. It’s generally regarded as one of the more threatening volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest along with Mount St. Helens.

The Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption buried the region in ash and blew off the mountain’s peak. It killed 57 people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

RELATED: Feds approve mining exploration near Mount St. Helens

The tiny stations cost approximately $100,000 each, and include a seismometer, a GPS device, and a transmitter to send all the data back to the USGS regional headquarters in Vancouver, notes Crosscut. In total, the Northwest’s eight most dangerous volcanoes have 75 stations within 12 miles monitoring them, which is significantly short of the 104 to 160 stations needed to cover them (at 12 to 20 per volcano).

The USGS is currently waiting to see how many new monitoring stations will be funded, and is additionally creating a plan for the newly authorized National Volcano Warning and Monitoring System. No major rumblings have been noticed recently, so there’s that.

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Geological study: 5 of Washington’s active volcanoes are under-monitored