The US Geological Survey recently reported that a “small swarm” of earthquakes occurred on Wednesday at Mount Rainier. The activity represents a typical increase in seismic activity reported annually in the region.
“While the seismic activity represents a temporary spike in activity, Mount Rainier is still at normal levels of activity in the background,” the US Geological Survey wrote on Facebook on Thursday afternoon.
The hike is a reminder of the region rich in volcanic activity found in the Cascade Mountain Range. It is driven by the Pacific plate contrasting with North America. Today the range contains approximately 2,900 volcanic features, according to the USGS.
Rainier’s small swarm – which totaled 20 earthquakes, as recorded by the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network – first began on Wednesday, February 17, at around 3:13 PM and lasted about five hours. One earthquake was reported the following day.
The maximum magnitude of earthquakes was reported at M2.5 at a depth of 1 km below the surface (for comparison, the 2001 Nisqually earthquake measured at M6.8). The US Geological Survey says the February 17 earthquakes were not being felt at surface level.
“The most famous swarm occurred between September 20 and September 22, 2009, when more than 1,000 earthquakes were detected,” the US Geological Survey wrote. “ Since the early 1980s, the seismic activity of Mount Rainier has been monitored by the PNSN and the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory via a network of seismic stations located 20 km (12 miles) from Mount Rainier, including the new ones that were installed late last year to help discover Avalanches (volcanic mud flow). “
Recent data led scientists to believe that earthquakes stem from defects in hydrothermal fluids “greasing” inside the rocks below the mountain.
Seven Cascade volcanoes have erupted since the start of the 18th century, according to the United States Geological Survey, the most famous – and most extreme – of which was the eruption of Mount St. Helens in the spring of 1980.
Due to its proximity to a high population, Mount Rainier is listed among nine volcanoes in the range with a “very high” threat, according to a 2018 USGS study.
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