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Should we be concerned about this week’s uptick in earthquake swarms along Ring of Fire (e.g. Mount Rainier and Yellowstone volcanoes)?

Mount St. Helens after 1980 eruption

During days when some believe the start of the seven-year biblical apocalypse has begun, news of global unrest, political instability, earthquakes, and record-breaking hurricanes can cause concern. There may be more reason for worry this week after scientists report an unusual uptick in earthquake swarms at Mount Rainier, a large volcano near Seattle, Washington that is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.

Mount Rainier is located about 54 miles south-southeast of Seattle, Washington. Its last recorded eruption was between 1820 and 1854. It is on the Decade Volcano list, a catalog of 16 volcanoes considered to be the largest and most dangerous (i.e. potentially destructive) volcanoes in the world. Scientists believe a modern-day eruption would cause tsunamis and super-heated mud explosions that would destroy much of the Seattle/Tacoma area. Ash would spread across the entire planet.

Nearly two dozen small earthquakes have rattled Mount Rainier during the week of September 11-18.  Located along the “Ring of Fire”, a string of nearly continuous oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, volcanic belts, and lithospheric plates, Rainier’s recent seismic activity prompts concern in light of earthquakes the same week in California, Japan, and Mexico – all located along the Ring of Fire.

Scientists say earthquake swarms are common and one scientist who is carefully monitoring the activity expressed only trifling concern:

“I’m treating this as a single eyebrow raised halfway. Yeah, I see you and will be watching.”

But concern is compounded when we consider another ongoing earthquake swarm at Yellowstone Volcano, located only 700 miles from Mount Rainier. Scientists say Yellowstone’s earthquake swarm is one of the longest and largest ever recorded. Since Summer began, more than 2,300 earthquakes have been recorded at Yellowstone, some as large as a magnitude 4.4. Yellowstone last erupted more than 70,000 years ago.

Scientists continue to monitor the volcanoes and believe it will take more and larger earthquakes, likely combined with steam explosions and gas discharges, to prompt raising the volcano alert level in the affected areas. However, they note past eruptions, such as Mount St. Helens, often gave little notice before striking.

Mount St. Helens after 1980 eruption
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