Volcanism of the West Coast of the United States: a topic close to my heart

When I was a geology university student I approached this topic, which I then explored in depth over the years

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Volcanism of the West Coast of the United States: a topic close to my heart
© Handout / Handout Getty Images News

As always in our columns on Rapusia Blog we like to explore different themes relating to science, and today I would like to talk to you about a topic that is close to my heart, which takes me back to my university studies.

Volcanic activism on the West Coast of the United States is of great interest and concern given the potentially devastating effects it could have on the lives of millions of people. In this geologically active region, there are several volcanoes that can erupt, such as Mount St.

Helens in Washington state, Mount Rainier in the same state, and Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak in Northern California. Volcanic activity is the result of the interaction between the tectonic plates that line the west coast of the United States.

This region is located along the Pacific rim, where the ocean is pushing under the North American plate, creating a subduction zone. During this process, rocks from the ocean melt into the asthenosphere, a zone of molten magma located beneath the Earth's crust.

This magma accumulates and can rise to the surface through volcanic areas, causing eruptions. The frequency and intensity of volcanic eruptions are influenced by several factors, such as temperature, pressure and the amount of gas in the magma.

There is still no clear understanding of how and when a specific volcano will erupt, but scientists are constantly monitoring seismic activity, temperature, and gases emitted by volcanoes for signs of impending volcanic activity.

This monitoring continues to improve over the years due to the advancement of technologies, such as gas level sensors and seismic detection systems. To protect life and property in risk areas, various countermeasures have been adopted.

First, volcanoes are constantly monitored for early signs of volcanic activity. This allows authorities to warn and evacuate people from the area before the eruption occurs. Additionally, volcanic hazard maps are created to identify the areas most at risk and plan evacuations accordingly.

Contingency plans are also established to coordinate the response to volcanic eruptions and ensure safe and orderly evacuation. Despite preventive measures, it is impossible to predict with certainty when and where a volcanic eruption will occur.

Future scenarios depend on the combination of numerous factors, such as seismic activity, magma pressure and the effect of climate change. Volcanic eruptions can range in scale from relatively small events to large-scale eruptions, such as that of Mount St.

Helens in 1980. Future scenarios may include similar or even more intense eruptions, which could cause significant impacts on the lives of millions of people and on infrastructure. The interaction between tectonic plates in the region can cause volcanic eruptions that threaten people's lives and property.

Despite the countermeasures adopted to monitor and prevent such eruptions, some uncertainty remains about future scenarios.