Sleeping volcano Mount Baker venting dream clouds of steam and gas this month

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MT BAKER – There are five volcanoes which could become active at any time in Washington, and one of those has been puffing a reminder about that unnerving fact all month.

The state’s quartet of the potentially eruptive peaks are all part of the Cascade Mountain Range, and the northernmost is Mount Baker, which is located in Whatcom County, 31 miles east of Bellingham.

On March 4, the 10,781-foot-tall volcano began producing a number of steam plumes known as fumaroles. The expulsions have continued throughout the month since then and several have been highly visible from many miles away and widely captured in photographs and cell phone videos.

Thankfully, these vaporous emissions from Mt. Baker or “Kulshan”, as the region’s indigenous peoples called the peak, are not a sign that any major eruption is imminent.

The venting of steam and gas from the mountain occurs on a daily basis, but due to the prevailing weather conditions this March, in particular the unusually cold temperatures which were registered earlier in the month, this common routine has been more dramatically observable.

“It’s sometimes visible, sometimes not. But gas clouds are always present,” said Dave Tucker of the Mount Baker Volcano Research Center in a recent interview with the Bellingham Herald.

“Gas plume visibility is enhanced in winter with temperature contrast between the gases and the atmosphere,” Tucker said. “Sunlight from behind the plume helps with visibility, so it is usually more notable in the morning.”

This month’s unusually conspicuous activity marks the second straight year that area residents have been able to clearly define pockets and steam and gas emanating from the mountain.

Mount Baker last erupted in 1843, but in several recent publications, the U.S. Geological Survey has maintained that Washington state’s third-highest peak continues to present a serious threat due to the frequency of its eruptive history and the volcano’s proximity to human population.

According to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, there has been no major earthquake activity around Mount Baker recently, which is a good thing, since this tends to indicate that a volcano may be “waking up” and readying to erupt.

There are nearly two dozen scientific instruments, like seismographs, sulphur detectors, and other devices which have been installed to monitor Mount Baker’s daily rumblings by the University of Washington’s Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. (Click to Source)

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