Volcanologists from around the world will be Portland, Oregon on Aug. 14 for the international volcanology assembly, and life among active volcanoes will be among their discussions, with a special focus on the US’s Cascade Range and its high threat volcanoes. 

The United State Geological Survey ranks many volcanic regions of the West Coast’s Cascade Range as “High Priority” in need of monitoring, including California’s Clear Lake Volcanic Field, Mono-Inyo Craters, Mono Lake Volcanic Field, Medicine Lake.

The California observatory lists those and other volcanoes in the region into three categories

  • Very-high threat: Mount Shasta, Lassen Volcanic Center and Long Valley Volcanic Region
  • High threat: Clear Lake Volcanic Field, Medicine Lake Volcano and Salton Buttes
  • Moderate threat: Ubehebe Crater and Coso Volcanic Field

SFGate.com reports:

In 2005, a national team led by John Ewert, a volcanologist with the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, established a system for deciding which of the United States’ 169 young volcanoes are the most dangerous and most in need of monitoring. In the “Framework for a National Volcano Early Warning System,” Ewert’s team identified 57 priority volcanoes in the U.S.

Among the report’s 18 “very high threat volcanoes” are California’s Lassen Volcanic Center, Long Valley Caldera, and Mount Shasta.

Lassen Peak was the most recent volcano to erupt in the state (1914-1917), and volcanologists say it will happen again, possibly in our lifetime.

Knowing what volcanoes qualify as a high level threat doesn’t just warn people about their dangers, but also puts a priority for research on those regions which threaten human life.

Margaret Mangan, Scientist-in-Charge at the California Volcano Observatory said some Californian volcanoes don’t just threaten local populations, but air travel as well.

SFGate.com continues:

“Over the northern California volcanoes, the data from FAA suggests that there are a couple hundred jumbo jets on flight-lines that pass over those three volcanoes on a daily basis,” she said. “And, likewise there are a couple hundred jumbo jets that are flying over Long Valley Volcanic Region as well.”

For all these reasons, Mangan said, the eight riskiest volcanoes in California need monitoring.

“… so that we can forecast eruptions, essentially keep our finger on the pulse,” she said. “The best network, the optimized network that we currently have, is in the Long Valley Volcanic Region. It is arguably one of the best in the nation. It is also one of the most restless volcanic areas currently.”

She added that the three Cascade Range volcanoes in northern California are being monitored to provide basic information, but the networks are not optimum.

“So, we are working as we can, given funding levels, to modernize and upgrade the networks in northern California,” she said. The other five “also have a way to go until we have an optimum monitoring situation.”

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