Volcano geodesy in the Cascade arc, USA

Bulletin of Volcanology




Experience during historical time throughout the Cascade arc and the lack of deep-seated deformation prior to the two most recent eruptions of Mount St. Helens might lead one to infer that Cascade volcanoes are generally quiescent and, specifically, show no signs of geodetic change until they are about to erupt. Several decades of geodetic data, however, tell a different story. Ground- and space-based deformation studies have identified surface displacements at five of the 13 major Cascade arc volcanoes that lie in the USA (Mount Baker, Mount St. Helens, South Sister, Medicine Lake, and Lassen volcanic center). No deformation has been detected at five volcanoes (Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Newberry Volcano, Crater Lake, and Mount Shasta), and there are not sufficient data at the remaining three (Glacier Peak, Mount Adams, and Mount Jefferson) for a rigorous assessment. In addition, gravity change has been measured at two of the three locations where surveys have been repeated (Mount St. Helens and Mount Baker show changes, while South Sister does not). Broad deformation patterns associated with heavily forested and ice-clad Cascade volcanoes are generally characterized by low displacement rates, in the range of millimeters to a few centimeters per year, and are overprinted by larger tectonic motions of several centimeters per year. Continuous GPS is therefore the best means of tracking temporal changes in deformation of Cascade volcanoes and also for characterizing tectonic signals so that they may be distinguished from volcanic sources. Better spatial resolution of volcano deformation can be obtained through the use of campaign GPS, semipermanent GPS, and interferometric synthetic aperture radar observations, which leverage the accumulation of displacements over time to improve signal to noise. Deformation source mechanisms in the Cascades are diverse and include magma accumulation and withdrawal, post-emplacement cooling of recent volcanic deposits, magmatic-tectonic interactions, and loss of volatiles plus densification of magma. The Cascade Range thus offers an outstanding opportunity for investigating a wide range of volcanic processes. Indeed, there may be areas of geodetic change that have yet to be discovered, and there is good potential for addressing a number of important questions about how arc volcanoes work before, during, and after eruptions by continuing geodetic research in the Cascade Range.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Volcano geodesy in the Cascade arc, USA
Series title:
Bulletin of Volcanology
Year Published:
Contributing office(s):
Volcano Science Center
Article 59; 33 p.
First page:
Last page:
United States
Other Geospatial:
Cascade Arc