Video shows steam vents in a crater on Mount Baker
Mount Baker put on an impressive show for Whatcom County observers last week, thanks to a combination of weather conditions that made its daily venting all that more spectacular.
So many people noticed the plumes from Sherman Crater atop the 10,781-foot stratovolcano that social media went viral with photos and speculation about a possible eruption.
But the experts said no, no, no and no.
“It’s normal behavior,” said Carolyn Driedger, a hydrologist at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver.
“It’s an active volcano, it’s not an erupting volcano,” she said, adding that gases were measured in October and seismographs have shown no increased earthquake frequency.
“If we were seeing deformation, you’d know about it,” Driedger said.
Driedger said that Mount Baker — like many other West Coast volcanoes — vents gas and steam all the time.
But Baker’s crater is near its peak, she said, making the plume more visible, while volcanoes such as Rainier, Hood and Lassen vent from their sides or deep in their craters.
“It’s way up high so more people see it,” Driedger said. “It has that perfect shape to it. It’s warmer air, so it rises.”
Recent clear skies and lighter winds at higher altitudes could be another reason that the steam cloud is so prominent, said meteorologist Gary Schneider at the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“People all around the world experience this with their local volcanoes,” Driedger said. “There’s heat beneath, and when it hits the groundwater, it steams. If you have calm skies, you’re going to have a nice plume like that.”