SIERRA NEVADA, California - For millions of years, volcanoes along the Sierra Nevada shaped California’s mountains and valleys into to the familiar landscapes we know today.And although scientists are certain these volcanoes in our own backyard will erupt again, the question is, how soon.
There are a half dozen living volcanoes in our part of the Sierra Nevada, alone.
Considered dormant, scientists agree these volcanoes have not yet seen their final eruption.
Geologists and volcanologists monitor them by satellite and with equipment on the ground.
There are several separate volcanic systems along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.
Some last erupted ages ago, while others last erupted only several hundred years ago.
There are many signs these volcanoes are not extinct.
Boiling hot water enters the Mammoth River from underground vents at Hot Creek.
Carbon dioxide leaching from the ground is killing hundreds of acres of trees at Horseshoe Lake near Mammoth Mountain.
The Mono-Inyo Craters erupted a dozen times in the last thousand years, at intervals ranging from 700 to 250 years apart, with the latest explosion about 250 years ago.
Molten rock meets water underground causing an explosive blast, creating a Swiss cheese effect when viewed from above.
The USGS puts the probability of such an eruption occurring in any given year at less than one percent.
In perspective, this is the same as chance of the next big earthquake on the San Andreas Fault.
But unlike earthquakes, sensors can detect an uptick in volcanic unrest, which may indicate a eruption weeks to months ahead of time.
The California Volcano Observatory monitors our volcanoes with satellites and equipment on the ground.
At the time of this story, all volcanoes monitored by the California Volcano Observatory are classified in the green/normal category meaning, “Non-erupting volcano is exhibiting typical background activity (including steaming, seismic events, thermal feature, or degassing), as long as such activity is within the range of typical non-eruptive phenomena seen at the volcano.”
For more information including real-time status updates, visit the California Volcano Observatory at https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/calvo/.