Washington State residents were sent into a bit of a tizzy yesterday after a video circulated on social media of what appeared to be Mount Rainier venting smoke or even worse erupting but The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Park Service want to put people at ease with their simple explanation.
KING5 News reports rather than volcanic activity, what people were seeing was a lenticular cloud that from certain angles was mistaken for venting. Lenticular clouds often form when moist air is pushed up and over the top of a mountain, forming a disc-shaped cloud. By happenstance, volcanologists were onsite at the time installing new equipment and confirmed no abnormal activity was detected.
Totally understandable why people misinterpreted the unusual cloud for the big one. Frightening in appearance but thankfully innocuous.
This morning, September 7, people in the greater Seattle metro area saw what appeared to be venting on the mountain, a video of which was then shared on social media. A new vent has NOT opened on the volcano.
After looking at the data we collect, the USGS seismic network does not show any unusual levels of activity coming from Mount Rainier. We have coordinated with our colleagues at the National Park Service and their boots on the ground experts are suggesting it is a lenticular cloud, a very interesting cloud formation at Mount Rainier. Lenticular clouds are often formed when moist air is pushed up and over the top of a mountain, forming a disc shaped cloud. The webcam views from Paradise and Camp Schurman show the flow of the cloud over the top from a different view. In this case, it is likely related to related to a passing weather front.
The Mount Rainier seismic network jointly operated by the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network shows no indications of unrest. By coincidence, there are USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory field teams at Mount Rainier this week to install a new volcano monitoring station. They have also confirmed that there has been no new activity.
This event comes at the beginning of September’s Preparedness Month. This is a good opportunity to think about how you can prepare for the next event, volcanic or otherwise. USGS provides information that can help our communities prepare for and respond to, natural hazards such as volcanic eruptions and lahars, early earthquake warning systems, floods, tsunamis, and weather-related events associated with climate change. Please visit USGS.gov for more information.