Mount St. Helens has been experiencing a swarm earthquakes since New Years Day, prompting rumors that the active volcano might be ready to blow.
The volcano has gone through swarms like this before, with eruptions that have occurred as recently as ten years ago.
The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was one of the deadliest in the history of the United States, and its proximity to both Portland and Seattle makes any future major eruptions a cause for concern.
There have been at least 40 earthquakes since the beginning of the year, but no reports of damage or injury. The strongest event showed a magnitude of 3.9 on the Richter scale.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the uptick in activity is linked to both the volcano itself and by regional stressors not connected to the volcano.
Trevor Nace, a geologist and contributor to Forbes, says that the quakes are not necessary a tell-tale sign that Mount St. Helens is about to erupt.
“This is not a sign of an impending eruption, the earthquakes are a result of an active volcanic system and movement along regional stress fields,” wrote Nace.
Mount St. Helens became active again in 2004, and the volcano is part of the Cascades Mountain Range, which houses some of the most active volcanoes today. The Cascades are also part of the Ring of Fire, which is where most volcanic eruptions in the world occur.
The Ring of Fire is long string of volcanoes that runs along the edges of the Pacific Ocean and includes volcanoes in Alaska, the southern tip of South America, and New Zealand.
Considering the last major eruption of Mount St. Helens resulted in devastating losses, Washington residents are nervous about this recent swarm of earthquakes, but Nace assures that there is little cause for concern.
Instead, Nace points out the need for continued monitoring and advancements in seismic research as preparedness is crucial for ensuring the safety and survival of residents near active zones.
“While we can’t be certain, chances are the next time Mount St. Helen erupts, we will be significantly better prepared,” writes Nace.