Report on Medicine Lake (United States) — June 1992

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 6 (June 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Medicine Lake (United States) Seismicity apparently triggered by M 7.5 earthquake hundreds of kilometers away

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Medicine Lake (United States). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:6. Smithsonian Institution. http://dx.doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199206-323020.

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Medicine Lake

United States

41.611°N, 121.554°W; summit elev. 2412 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Southern California's largest earthquake since 1952, M 7.5 on 28 June, appeared to trigger seismicity at several volcanic centers in California. It was centered roughly 200 km E of Los Angeles. In the following, David Hill describes post-earthquake activity at Long Valley caldera, and Stephen Walter discusses the USGS's seismic network, and the changes it detected at Lassen, Shasta, Medicine Lake, and the Geysers.

In recent years, the USGS northern California seismic network has relied upon Real-Time Processors (RTPs) to detect, record, and locate earthquakes. However, a film recorder (develocorder) collects data from 18 stations in volcanic areas, primarily to detect long-period earthquakes missed by RTPs. The film recorders proved useful in counting the post-M 7.5 earthquakes, most of which were too small to trigger the RTPs.

The film record was scanned for the 24 hours after the M 7.5 earthquake, noting the average coda duration for each identified event. Some events may have been missed because of seismogram saturation by the M 7.5 earthquake. Marked increases in microseismicity were observed at Lassen Peak, Medicine Lake caldera, and the Geysers (table 1). No earthquakes were observed at Shasta, but the lack of operating stations on the volcano limited the capability to observe small events.

Table 1. Number of earthquakes at northern California volcanic centers during 24-hour periods following major earthquakes on 25 April (40.37°N, 124.32°W; M 7.0) and 28 June (34.18°N, 116.47°W; M 7.5) 1992. Events with coda durations less than or equal to 10 seconds and greater than 10 seconds are tallied separately. Earthquakes were identified from film records of seismograms from nearby stations. Courtesy of Stephen Walter.

Date Lassen Shasta Medicine Lake Geysers
Codas (seconds) <=10 >10 <=10 >10 <=10 >10 <=10 >10
25 Apr 1992 0 0 0 1 0 0 7 2
28 Jun 1992 8 14 1 5 12 0 46 4

Film was also scanned for the 24 hours following the M 7.0 earthquake at 40.37°N, 124.32°W (near Cape Mendocino) on 25 April. Although smaller than the 28 June earthquake, its epicenter was only 20-25% as far from the volcanoes. Furthermore, both the 25 April main shock and a M 6.5 aftershock were felt at the volcanic centers, but no felt reports were received from these areas after the 28 June earthquake. Only the Geysers showed any possible triggered events after the 25 April shock. However, background seismicity at the Geysers is higher than at the other centers, and is influenced by fluid injection and withdrawal associated with intensive geothermal development.

Medicine Lake Report. Twelve events were detected in the Medicine Lake area (~900 km NNW of the epicenter) in the 30 minutes after the M 7.5 earthquake. All had coda durations less than or equal to 10 seconds. The lack of any S-P separation indicated that they were centered very close to the single seismic station, near the center of the caldera. All known historical seismicity had occurred in the central caldera as part of a mainshock/aftershock sequence during the fall and winter of 1988-89.

Geologic Background. Medicine Lake is a large Pleistocene-to-Holocene, basaltic-to-rhyolitic shield volcano east of the main axis of the Cascade Range. Medicine Lake volcanism, similar in style to that of Newberry volcano in Oregon, began less than one million years ago. A roughly 7 x 12 km caldera truncating the summit contains a lake that gives the volcano its name. A series of young eruptions lasting a few hundred years began about 10,500 years before present (BP) and produced 5 cu km of basaltic lava. Nine Holocene eruptions clustered during three Holocene eruptive episodes at about 5000, 3000, and 1000 years ago produced a chemically varied group of basaltic lava flows from flank vents and silicic obsidian flows from vents within the caldera and on the upper flanks. The last eruption produced the massive Glass Mountain obsidian flow on the east flank about 900 years BP. Lava Beds National Monument on the northern flank of Medicine Lake shield volcano contains hundreds of lava-tube caves displaying a variety of spectacular lava-flow features, most of which are found in the voluminous Mammoth Crater lava flow, which extends in several lobes up to 24 km from the vent.

Information Contacts: S. Walter and D. Hill, USGS Menlo Park.