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Report on Three Sisters (United States) — 24 March-30 March 2004

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 March-30 March 2004
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2004. Report on Three Sisters (United States). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 March-30 March 2004. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (24 March-30 March 2004)


Three Sisters

United States

44.133°N, 121.767°W; summit elev. 3159 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


On 23 March at around 1000 a seismic swarm began at South Sister that lasted ~48 hours. Over 300 volcano-tectonic earthquakes up to M 1.9 were recorded. The earthquakes were located in the NE quadrant of the area of on-going uplift.

Geologic Background. The north-south-trending Three Sisters volcano group dominates the landscape of the Central Oregon Cascades. All Three Sisters stratovolcanoes ceased activity during the late Pleistocene, but basaltic-to-rhyolitic flank vents erupted during the Holocene, producing both blocky lava flows north of North Sister and rhyolitic lava domes and flows south of South Sister volcano. Glaciers have deeply eroded the Pleistocene andesitic-dacitic North Sister stratovolcano, exposing the volcano's central plug. Construction of the main edifice ceased at about 55,000 yrs ago, but north-flank vents produced blocky lava flows in the McKenzie Pass area as recently as about 1600 years ago. Middle Sister volcano is located only 2 km to the SW and was active largely contemporaneously with South Sister until about 14,000 years ago. South Sister is the highest of the Three Sisters. It was constructed beginning about 50,000 years ago and was capped by a symmetrical summit cinder cone formed about 22,000 years ago. The late Pleistocene or early Holocene Cayuse Crater on the SW flank of Broken Top volcano and other flank vents such as Le Conte Crater on the SW flank of South Sister mark mafic vents that have erupted at considerable distances from South Sister itself, and a chain of dike-fed rhyolitic lava domes and flows at Rock Mesa and Devils Chain south of South Sister erupted about 2000 years ago.

Sources: US Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO), Pacific Northwest Seismic Network