After a lot of phone calls and emails to various media by USGS scientists at CVO, and MBVRC representatives, it appears that the viral story about an ‘overdue’ Baker eruption that would bury Vancouver under ‘tons of ash’ is being retracted by at least one media outlet, Seattle’s ‘KCPQ online’. Hopefully others will follow suit. The Bellingham Herald news room manager said they wouldn’t have touched this story with a pole of any length without checking with USGS and MBVRC first.
Seattle’s Fox TV station, KCPQ, interviewed me by phone yesterday, and didn’t botch it too much. Their revision is here. (An aside: they used a John Scurlock photo which they say was taken off this website, but it has not been used by us and is not the one I sent them. Did they get this off your own gallery with your permission, John?)
If you do a web search for ‘overdue mount baker eruption’ you’ll see what I mean about ‘viral’. So far the KCPQ retraction is the only one I’ve found- thanks to them. Writers commented on the eruption story at the Seattle PI blog and the online version of Vancouver Sun trying to set the story straight. Other’s however, just made it worse with comments like ‘Bellingham, you can kiss your sorry ass goodbye”. Real knowledgable and helpful, that.
It appears that the whole story started with a press release by the British journal ‘Nature’, which carried the original research paper by UBC volcanologist Mark Jellinek and his Yale University colleague, David Bercovici. their paper doesn’t even mention Mount Baker. However, the ‘Nature’ press release prompted interviews with Jellinek, at least, and much if not all of what he told them was overblown, he told me. Whether or not he told reporters from Montreal and Vancouver Press that Vancouver would be ‘buried by ash’, that is an unlikely scenario. Ash blows downwind, and the prevailing wind is AWAY from the lowlands in these parts about 70-80% of the time. Also the one ‘big’ ash eruption we know of from Mount Baker was pretty piddly compared to the big eruptions that usually get reporrted- MSH ’80, Pinatubo, Chaiten, etc, and would not have carried much ash even as far as Vancouver regardless of the wind direction.