Rainier

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 46.853°N
  • 121.76°W

  • 4392 m
    14406 ft

  • 321030
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

Most Recent Bulletin Report: June 1969 (CSLP 53-69)


Increased seismicity since September 1968

Card 0619 (27 June 1969) Increased seismicity since September 1968

"Local activity has been increasing each month for the last three months. We have been averaging about 1-3 'Mt. Ranier Events' per 5-day period with an increase to about five per 5-day period last September 1968. This April, the events increased to approximately five per 5-day period. In May, it increased to about six per 5-day period and as of 15 June the increase is to approximately 12 per 5-day period."

Information Contacts: N. Rasmussen, Seismology Station, University of Washington.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Rainier.

Index of Bulletin Reports


Reports are organized chronologically and indexed below by Month/Year (Publication Volume:Number), and include a one-line summary. Click on the index link or scroll down to read the reports.

06/1969 (CSLP 53-69) Increased seismicity since September 1968




Bulletin Reports

All information contained in these reports is preliminary and subject to change.


06/1969 (CSLP 53-69) Increased seismicity since September 1968

Card 0619 (27 June 1969) Increased seismicity since September 1968

"Local activity has been increasing each month for the last three months. We have been averaging about 1-3 'Mt. Ranier Events' per 5-day period with an increase to about five per 5-day period last September 1968. This April, the events increased to approximately five per 5-day period. In May, it increased to about six per 5-day period and as of 15 June the increase is to approximately 12 per 5-day period."

Information Contacts: N. Rasmussen, Seismology Station, University of Washington.

Mount Rainier, at 4392 m the highest peak in the Cascade Range, forms a dramatic backdrop to the Puget Sound region. Large Holocene mudflows from collapse of this massive, heavily glaciated andesitic volcano have reached as far as the Puget Sound lowlands. The present summit was constructed within a large crater breached to the northeast formed by collapse of the volcano during a major explosive eruption about 5600 years that produced the widespread Osceola Mudflow. Rainier has produced eruptions throughout the Holocene, including about a dozen during the past 2600 years; the largest of these occurred about 2200 years ago. The present-day summit cone is capped by two overlapping craters. Extensive hydrothermal alteration of the upper portion of the volcano has contributed to its structural weakness; an active thermal system has caused periodic melting on flank glaciers and produced an elaborate system of steam caves in the summit icecap. Reported 19th-century eruptions have not left identifiable deposits, but a phreatic eruption may have taken place as recently as 1894.

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1894 Nov 21 1894 Dec 24 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
[ 1882 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1879 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1870 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1858 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1854 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1843 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1825 (?) ] [ Unknown ] Discredited    
1450 ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
0910 ± 500 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
0440 ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layers TC1 and TC2
0150 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology Tephra layer SL8
0250 BCE ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer C
0400 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology
0500 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology Tephra layer SL5
0610 BCE ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layers SL3 and SL4
0650 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology Tephra layer SL2
0700 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology Tephra layer SL1
2550 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Tephra layer B
2750 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 2 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Tephra layer H
3650 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layers S, F
3850 BCE ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
4850 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 2 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer N
5050 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer D
5350 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer L
5550 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 2 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer A
7800 BCE ± 300 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
8050 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Tephra layer R

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Synonyms

Tacoma, Mount | Tacoman

Craters

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Columbia Crest Crater
East Crater Crater
West Crater Crater

Thermal

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Disappointment Cleaver Thermal
Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Range, towers above the city of Tacoma and forms a prominent landmark that dominates much of central Washington. Periodic collapse of the volcano during the past ten thousand years has produced debris avalanches and mudflows that have reached the Puget Sound at the present locations of the cities of Tacoma and Seattle.

Photo by Lyn Topinka (U.S. Geological Survey).
A volcanologist from the U.S. Geological Survey observes the glacier-clad NW flank of Mount Rainier during a field survey to conduct monitoring measurements on Ptarmigan Ridge. The North Mowich Glacier in the center of the photo descends to about 1500 m elevation.

Photo by Lyn Topinka, 1983 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Stratovolcanoes, also referred to as composite volcanoes, are constructed of sequential layers of resistant lava flows and fragmental material produced by pyroclastic eruptions. An aerial view of the glacially dissected SW flank of Mount Rainier shows the layered interior of a stratovolcano. Snow cover, which preferentially clings to less-steep layers of fragmental material, accentuates the stratified character of this composite volcano.

Photo by Dan Dzurisin, 1982 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Mount Rainier towers above the town of Orting, 40 km NW of the volcano. The plain underlying the town is composed of the Electron Mudflow, which formed the flat valley floor about 500 years ago. The mudflow, which originated from collapse of part of the western flank of Mount Rainier, was about 60 m deep when it exited valleys at the mountain front and flowed onto the Puget Lowland.

Photo by Dave Wieprecht, 1995 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The rims of two partially overlapping cinder cones, viewed here from the NE, mark the summit of Mount Rainier volcano. The twin craters represent the latest activity of a volcano that was constructed within the large horseshoe-shaped depression formed by collapse of Mount Rainier 5700 years ago. Thermal activity continues today, forming a series of fumaroles and ice caves within the icecap filling the summit craters.

Photo by Dave Wieprecht, 1995 (U.S. Geological Survey).
An aerial view from near the eastern margin of Mount Rainier National Park shows the volcano rising above glacially carved terrain of the Ohanapecosh formation, composed of volcanic rocks of Tertiary age. The smooth, ice-covered upper NE flank is the location of the post-collapse cone constructed within the failure scarp left by the Osceola debris avalanche and lahar about 5700 years ago.

Photo by Dave Wieprecht, 1992 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Hikers on the trail to Pinnacle Peak in the Tatoosh Range enjoy a spectacular vista of the south side of Mount Rainier. Sunlight catches the lower part of the Nisqually Glacier at the lower right-center; the glacier descends in a series of icefalls more than 3000 vertical meters from the summit icecap. Meadows and forests of the Paradise area lie immediately below and to the right of the glacier. Camp Muir, used as base for climbs of Rainier, is at the top of the snowfield below and to the right of the massive cliffs of Gibralter Rock on the right skyline.

Photo by Lee Siebert (Smithsonian Institution).
Mount Rainier rises above Yakima Park on the north side of the volcano. Emmons Glacier descends to the left from the summit within a broad valley between Little Tahoma Peak at the extreme left and the low ridge descending diagonally to the left at the center of the photo. This 2.5-km-wide valley was created when Mount Rainier collapsed about 5700 years ago, forming the Osceola mudflow, which traveled all the way to the Puget Sound. The collapse was associated with an explosive eruption.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1972 (Smithsonian Institution).
Flat-topped Burroughs Mountain on the NE flank of Mount Rainier is underlain by a massive andesitic lava flow. The 3.4 cu km flow is up to 350 m thick and extends 11 km from about 2350 m to 1300 m elevation. The flow was erupted about 500,000 years ago at the onset of a period initial growth of modern Mount Rainier volcano and overlies block-and-ashflow deposits. The flow is perched on a ridge top and has ice-contact features, indicative of its emplacement against the margins of a thick Pleistocene glacier.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1982 (Smithsonian Institution).
The trees in the foreground along Kautz Creek were killed by a mudflow from the SW flank of Mount Rainier in 1947, which cut the west-side access road to the park. Relatively small debris flows such as these occur relatively frequently; deposits of a half dozen or more debris flows are exposed in the valley walls of Kautz Creek.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1980 (Smithsonian Institution).
New housing is under construction on a mudflow deposit that originated from Mount Rainier, partially obscured by clouds in the center background. The tree stump in the foreground, left for landscaping purposes at the entrance to the housing development, was buried by the Electron mudflow about 500 years ago.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1994 (Smithsonian Institution).
Two overlapping cinder cones form the summit of Mount Rainier. Continued high heat flux has produced steam jets and fumaroles that have created a 2.5-km-long labyrinth of ice tunnels in the 100-m-deep icecap filling the eastern summit crater. Ice caves are also present in the smaller western crater, which contains a small crater lake beneath the ice.

Photo by Richard Fiske, 1958 (Smithsonian Institution).
Mount Rainier is reflected in the waters of Tipsoo Lake, near Chinook Pass at the eastern end of Mount Rainier National Park. The snow-free peaks of the Cowlitz Chimneys below Mount Rainier are composed of volcanic rocks of the Ohanapecosh Formation of Tertiary age, which underlies Mount Rainier.

Photo by Richard Fiske, 1959 (Smithsonian Institution).
The Tahoma Glacier spills from the summit icecap of Mount Rainier between Liberty Cap (left) and Point Success (right) in this aerial view from the SW. Two young cinder cones, constructed within a scarp left by massive collapse of the summit of Mount Rainier about 5700 years ago, form the present-day summit of the volcano. Slope failure of the summit or upper flanks of the hydrothermally altered volcano has occurred several times during the Holocene, producing massive debris avalanches and mudflows that swept into the Puget lowlands.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1969 (Smithsonian Institution).
Stratovolcanoes, also known as composite volcanoes, are built up by accumulated layers of lava flows and fragmental material from explosive eruptions. Glacier-clad Mount Rainier, seen here from the NW, is the most prominent stratovolcano in the Cascade Range. Most eruptions originate from a central conduit, which produces the common conical profile of stratovolcanoes, but flank eruptions also occur. Both isolated stratovolcanoes like Mount Rainier and compound volcanoes formed by overlapping cones are common.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1983 (Smithsonian Institution).
Mount Rainier, seen here across a cloud-filled valley from High Knob SW of the volcano, forms a dramatic backdrop to the Puget Sound region. Large Holocene mudflows from this massive, heavily glaciated volcano have reached as far as the Puget Sound lowlands. Several postglacial tephras have been erupted from Mount Rainier; tree-ring dating places the last recognizable tephra deposit during the 19th century. Extensive hydrothermal alteration of the upper portion of the volcano has contributed to its structural weakness.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1981 (Smithsonian Institution).
The massive 4392-m-high glacier-mantled cone of Mount Rainier forms the highest peak of the Cascade Range. This aerial view from the NW also shows neighboring Mount Adams on the right horizon. The steep cirque forming the sheer Willis Wall, named after the 19th-century geologist Bailey Willis, lies in the shadow at the left, below the Winthrop Glacier, which forms the left-hand ridge of Mount Rainier. Two young overlapping cinder cones, their rims kept free of snow by high heat flow, form the flat summit of the volcano.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1985 (Smithsonian Institution)

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

Coombs H A, Howard A D, 1960. United States of America. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World and Solfatara Fields, Rome: IAVCEI, 9: 1-68.

Crandell D R, 1969. The geologic story of Mount Rainier. U S Geol Surv Bull, 1292: 1-43.

Crandell D R, 1971. Postglacial lahars from Mount Rainier volcano, Washington. U S Geol Surv Prof Pap, 677: 1-75.

Fiske R S, Hopson C A, Waters A C, 1963. Geology of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. U S Geol Surv Prof Pap, 444: 1-93.

Frank D, 1995. Surficial extent and conceptual model of hydrothermal system at Mount Rainier, Washington. J Volc Geotherm Res, 65: 51-80.

Gardner J E, Carey S, Sigurdsson H, 1998. Plinian eruptions at Glacier Peak and Newberry volcanoes, United States: implications for volcanic hazards in the Cascade Range. Geol Soc Amer Bull, 110: 173-187.

Hildreth W E, 2007. Quaternary magmatism in the Cascades--geologic perpectives. U S Geol Surv Prof Pap, 1744: 1-125.

John D A, Sisson T W, Breit G N, Rye R O, Vallance J W, 2008. Characteristics, extent and origin of hydrothermal alteration at Mount Rainier Volcano, Cascades Arc, USA: implications for debris-flow hazards and mineral deposits. J Volc Geotherm Res, 175: 289-314.

Moxham R M, Crandell D R, Marlatt W E, 1965. Thermal features at Mount Rainier, Washington, as revealed by infrared surveys. U S Geol Surv Prof Pap, 525-D: 93-100.

Mullineaux D R, 1974. Pumice and other pyroclastic deposits in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. U S Geol Surv Bull, 1326: 1-83.

Pringle P T, 2008. Roadside geology of Mount Rainier National Park and vicinity. Wash State Dept Nat Resour, Inf Circ 107, 200 p.

Reid M E, Sisson T W, Brien D L, 2001. Volcano collapse produced by hydrothermal alteration and edifice shape, Mount Rainier, Washington. Geology, 29: 779-782.

Sherrod D R, Smith J G, 1990. Quaternary extrusion rates of the Cascade Range, northwestern United States and southern British Columbia. J Geophys Res, 95: 19,465-19,474.

Sisson T W, Vallance J W, 2009. Frequent eruptions of Mount Rainier over the last ~2,600 years. Bull Volc, 71: 595-618.

Stockstill K R, Vogel T A, Sisson T W, 2003. Origin and emplacement of the andesite of Burroughs Mountain, a zoned, large-volume lava flow at Mount Rainier, Washington, USA. J Volc Geotherm Res, 119: 275-296.

Vallance J W, Scott W E, 1997. The Osceola mudflow from Mount Rainier: sedimentology and hazard implications of a huge clay-rich debris flow. Geol Soc Amer Bull, 109: 143-163.

Venezky D Y, Rutherford M J, 1997. Preeruption conditions and timing of dacite-andesite magma mixing in the 2.2 ka eruption at Mount Rainier. J Geophys Res, 102: 20,069-20,086.

Wood C A, Kienle J (eds), 1990. Volcanoes of North America. Cambridge, England: Cambridge Univ Press, 354 p.

Zimbelman D R, Rye R O, Landis G P, 2000. Fumaroles in ice caves on the summit of Mount Rainier--preliminary stable isotope, gas, and geochemical studies. J Volc Geotherm Res, 97: 457-473.

Volcano Types

Stratovolcano
Pyroclastic cone(s)

Tectonic Setting

Subduction zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Major
Andesite / Basaltic Andesite
Minor
Dacite

Population

Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km
0
128
3,187
2,667,609

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Rainier Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.