Mt. Rainier, Washington
Posted by graywacke on July 31, 2011
First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.
Dan - The strings (western states & OSers) continue with this landing in . . . WA; 49/46; 2/10 (2/15); 10; 158.6. As my landing map (and post title) indicate, this is an extraordinary landing! For the first time in my memory, I’m referencing a natural feature, not a town! Here’s my landing map, showing my proximity to Mt. Rainier (highlighted below; I landed about six miles west of the Big Mountain):
Here’s a broader view:
Here’s my GE shot, which shows that I landed in a steep-walled valley:
The Valley shown above holds the North Puyallup River (a new river, my 1096th, my 92nd watershed with the word “North”); on to the Puyallup (3rd hit); on to Puget Sound (10th hit).
Here’s the inevitable GE shot showing my proximity to the magnificent Mt. Rainier:
Mount Rainier is a massive stratovolcano located 54 miles southeast of Seattle. It is the most prominent mountain in the contiguous United States, with a summit elevation of 14,411 feet. Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list. Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could potentially produce massive lahars that would threaten the whole Puyallup River valley.
Well, I’ve got plenty to work with, just understanding all that was said in Wiki’s first paragraph.
OK, so what’s a stratovolcano? I’m a geologist, and I don’t know. So, a little research shows that the “strato” part refers to layers of various kinds of volcanic rock that make up the bulk of the volcano. Classic beauties like Mt. Fuji, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood are stratovolcanos. But here’s the rub. Website after website goes on to say that the stratovolcano eruptions are explosive. How in the heck do we end up with beautiful cones like Rainier and Fuji if the volcanoes blow their tops?
Evidently, Crater Lake used to be a stratovolcano (comparable to Rainier) that blew its top. Mt. St. Helens used to be a beautiful cone until it blew out one side of the mountain. Krakatoa obliterated itself.
So, the less-than-lucid websites I looked at (USGS, Wiki, San Diego State University and 4 or 5 others) all leave an unanswered question: namely, how do these tall, stately mountains get so tall and stately? The answer to me is that they must have minor eruptions that build the volcano rather than blow it up. But none of them talk about that, and I don’t recall hearing about eruptions making this type of volcano taller and taller. It’s just doom and gloom about massive, destructive eruptions.
Any volcanologists out there who can help me with this?
Moving right along. What’s the “Decade Volcano List?” From Wiki:
The Decade Volcanoes refer to 16 volcanoes identified as being worthy of particular study in light of their history of large, destructive eruptions and proximity to populated areas. The Decade Volcanoes project encourages studies and public-awareness activities at these volcanoes, with the aim of achieving a better understanding of the volcanoes and the dangers they present, and thus being able to reduce the severity of natural disasters. They are named Decade Volcanoes because the project was initiated as part of the United Nations-sponsored International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.
Here’s a map:
So, the other thing mentioned was the possibility of lahars in the Puyallup valley (my landing valley!) From Wiki:
A lahar is a type of mudflow or debris flow composed of a slurry of pyroclastic material, rocky debris, and water. The material flows down from a volcano, typically along a river valley. The term is a shortened version of “berlahar” which originated in the Javanese language of Indonesia.
Lahars have the consistency, viscosity and approximately the same density of concrete: fluid when moving, then solid when stopped. Lahars can be huge: the Osceola lahar produced 5,600 years ago by Mount Rainier in Washington produced a wall of mud 460 ft deep in the White River canyon (a tributary of the Puyallup) and covered an area of over 130 sq mi.
A lahar can bulldoze through virtually any structure in its path. Unlike water, a lahar is capable of carving its own pathway, making the prediction of its course difficult. A lahar quickly loses force when it leaves the channel of its flow: even frail huts may remain standing while being buried up to the roof with mud.
Lahar flows are deadly because of their energy and speed. Large lahar flows move at approximately 60 mph, can flow for more than 200 miles, and can cause catastrophic destruction in their path.
Here’s a photo showing how a lahar turns to “concrete.” Imagine try to clean this up . . .
So, lots of folks are worried about the 150,000 or so people that live in the possible path of lahars around Mt. Rainier. Here’s a picture of the danger areas. Note the North Fork of the Puyallup (where I landed).
There’s a lahar warning system. This, from Wiki:
The Mount Rainier Volcano Lahar Warning System is a loose-knit, emergency notification and warning system developed by the United States Geological Survey in 1998, and now operated by the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management and several cities. It is supposed to assist in the evacuation of the Puyallup River Valley in Washington state in the event of a volcanic eruption from Mt. Rainier.
Man. If I were writing the Wiki article, I would replace the word “supposed” with “designed” . . .
Here’s a little on what the Indians called Mt. Rainier, and how it got its western name; from Wiki:
OK, OK, so it’s time for some pictures of Mt. Rainier. I’ll start with this shot of the summit, taken from just east of my landing:
Here are a series of more traditional Mt. Rainier shots:
I’ll close with this picture (caption below):
Mt. Rainier and Tulips – Puyallup Valley, Washington, by John McAnulty
That’ll do it. . .
© 2011 A Landing A Day