Two volcanoes have hit the headlines over the past month as they have caused devastation for millions of people.
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The eruption of a Hawaii volcano in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” has experts warily eyeing volcanic peaks on America’s West Coast that are also part of the geologically active region.
“There’s lots of anxiety out there,” said Liz Westby, geologist at the US Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington, in the shadow of Mount St. Helens.
“They see destruction, and people get nervous.”
The West Coast is home to an 800-mile (1,300-kilometre) chain of 13 volcanoes, from Washington state’s Mount Baker to California’s Lassen Peak.
They include Mount St. Helens, whose spectacular 1980 eruption in the Pacific northwest killed dozens of people and sent volcanic ash across the country, and massive Mount Rainier, which towers above the Seattle metro area.
But what of America’s West Coast? Here are some key things to know:
What is the Ring of Fire?
Kilauea is among roughly 450 volcanoes along this horseshoe-shaped belt, which follows the coasts of South America, North America, eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It’s known for frequent volcanic and seismic activity caused by the colliding of crustal plates.
America’s most dangerous volcanoes are all part of the Ring of Fire, and most are on the West Coast, according to the US Geological Survey.
Some geologists believe Mount St. Helens is the most likely to erupt.
But six other Cascade volcanoes have been active in the past 300 years, including steam eruptions at Mount Rainier and Glacier Peak and a 1915 blast at Lassen Peak that destroyed nearby ranches.
Two of the most potentially destructive are Mount St. Helens, north of the Portland, Oregon, metro area, and 14,000-foot (4,270-metre) Mount Rainier, which is visible from the cities of Seattle and Tacoma.
Mount Rainier eruptions in the distant past have caused destruction as far west as Puget Sound, some 50 miles (80 kilometres) away.
The volcano hasn’t produced a significant eruption in the past 500 years. But it remains dangerous because of its great height, frequent earthquakes, active hydrothermal system, and 26 glaciers, experts said.
The Guatemalan volcano is located within the Ring of Fire, a chain of volcanic and seismic activity stretching 25,000 miles in the basin of the Pacific Ocean.
The year 2018 has already seen the eruption of the Cleveland volcano in the Aleutian Isles, Mount Mayon in the Philippines and most recently Kilauea in Hawaii.
However, the Kilauea volcano is not generally considered to be a part of the Ring.
The Ring of Fire is made up of volcanoes that sit on tectonic plates, along the horseshoe.
Hawaii is in the middle of the horseshoe, so it is not part of the Ring of Fire.
Volcanic activity in Hawaii is also not caused by tectonic plates but by hot spots instead.
The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island has been wreaking havoc since May 3.
Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano has also been erupting since mid-May, most recently on June 1, sending plumes of smoke almost 4 miles into the air.
National Guard troops, police and firefighters ushered the last group of evacuees from homes on the eastern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island early on Saturday, hours before lava from the Kilauea volcano cut off road access to the area, officials said.
A stream of lava as wide as three football fields flowed over a highway near a junction at Kapoho, a seaside community of rebuilt after a destructive eruption of Kilauea in 1960.
The lava flow left Kapoho and the adjacent development of Vacationland cut off from the rest of the island by road, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense agency.
Also, lava destroyed a freshwater lake, boiling away all of the water in it, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported late Saturday, local time.
“Lava entered Green Lake within Kapoho Crater, producing a large steam plume … A Hawaiian County Fire Department overflight reported that the lava filled the lake and apparently evaporated all the water,” the report said.
Authorities since Wednesday had been urging residents of the area to leave before lava spewing from a volcanic fissure at the eastern foot of Kilauea reached the area.
The final phase of the evacuation was carried out late on Friday and early Saturday by fire and police department personnel, with help from the Hawaii National Guard and public works teams, county civil defense spokeswoman Janet Snyder told Reuters by email.
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June 4th, 2018