GUWW cover

To be released in May, 2015. The cover image shows an interpreted eruption at Mount Rainier, and lahars descending into lowland valleys. Art by Eric Knight.

A “people’s geology guide to western Washington” will be published in May. Geology Underfoot in Western Washington, written by Dave Tucker, one of MBVRC’s directors, will be published by Mountain Press Publishing (Missoula). The book details geology (and necessary background)  at 22 sites between the Columbia River and the British Columbia border, and from the Cascades to the Olympic coast. Each chapter describes a particular location. Some are close to Bellingham: the Kulshan caldera and Table Mountain at Artist Point, the Western Washington University Geology Museum and the giant fossil bird track found near Kendall, and Larrabee Park’s stunning ‘honeycomb’ weathering. Some sites are right next to the road, others require some hiking. There is a geology 101-style introduction, and many color photos, diagrams and maps. The book will be for sale at Village Books in Bellingham’s Fairhaven district, as well as bookstores all over the region.

An opportunity for citiizen volunteers to assist with USGS river and storm surge monitoring

From Eric E. Grossman, PhD, Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey


As part of our USGS Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound Project and WWU Coastal Resilience Project, we actively measure river floods and storm surge/wave impacts. We have witnessed some extreme flooding, inundation and erosion the last few storms and need help.

Volunteers are requested to help:

1) measure river flow and its partitioning through delta distributaries using fancy Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers

2) sample for suspended and bed load sediment

3) map bedforms and changes in channel morphology/aggradation

4) measure maximum runup and inundation following floods/storms with RTK-GPS

5) Deploy instrument packages that continuously measure water levels (tides), waves, currents, suspended sediment flux and water temperature/salinity.

This work is ongoing with a big push during the winter months. If anyone is available periodically for full or half-day outings please contact Eric Grossman – USGS/WWU Geologist (831-234-4674 or 360-650-4697) and/or Christopher Curran – Hydrologist, USGS, 253-380-7409). If anyone is around during the Holidays and interested in exciting field days, please let us know.

Thanks and have fun and safe Holidays,

Eric E. Grossman
Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey
USGS Western Fisheries Research Center, 6505 NE 65th St., Seattle, WA 98115; 206-526-6282×334 (office), 831-234-4674 (cell)

Affiliate Researcher, Western Washington University
Dept. of Geology, 516 High St., MS 9080
Bellingham, WA, 98225; 360-650-4697

Posted by: magmatist | December 14, 2014

Baker eruption simulation, Dec 14, 2014

Simulated ash deposit thickness from  alarge Mount Baker eruption, Dec 14, 2014. Thickness in mm. Click to enlarge.

Simulated ash deposit thickness from alarge Mount Baker eruption, Dec 14, 2014. Thickness in mm. Click to enlarge.

A reminder that an animated eruption simulation is available on this website. A repeat of the last large Baker eruption today, with prevailing winds, would drop 3 cm of ash on Bellingham; the Lower Mainland would receive 1 cm to only 1 mm, depending on distance from the volcano. The effect on Bellingham would be serious, and even 1 cm in a big urban area could affect internal combustion engines. Airports would certainly be shut down. Click the ‘monitoring and webcams’ tab at the top of the page to go to the simulation, and learn more about the geologic basis for model. Or, go directly to the simulations page:


Posted by: magmatist | December 1, 2014


Gift Cert cartoon copyMBVRC is offering gift certificates for our field trips. These make stocking stuffers for your geophile friends and relatives who already have hammers, hand lenses, and all the trappings, but no place to take them. The cost is $75 (the usual cost of a one day guided trip, including van transport) and can be applied to any field trip offered by MBVRC.

To purchase a gift certificate, send an email or letter to MBVRC. We will need payment and the name of the person the certificate is for, as well as your mailing address. We will send you a printed card. You may send payment via check payable to ‘MBVRC’ to us at 708 13th St, Bellingham, or use our PayPal account and specify ‘gift certificate’:
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Posted by: magmatist | November 14, 2014

Mount Baker earthquakes in November

Two small earthquakes have occurred near Mount Baker in November, the second and third detected in 2014. Magnitudes were 1.9 and 1.1. Though small, they were still among the largest earthquakes at Cascade volcanoes in the past month. They are not considered anything other than normal.


1. On November 5th, there was an M 1.9 event just after midnight at or near the terminus of the Thunder Glacier, 4 km west of Mount Baker’s summit. Though small, this is still among the largest earthquakes recorded at the volcano in the past 9 years (see graph at the link above- scroll down there in the right margin’s list. Pacific Northwest Seismic Center’s report page: Note the uncertainty in depth of this seismic event, 31.61 km vs. horizontal error, only 0.6 km. The waveforms are here:  Note that the top two graphs are from the nearest seismic stations, MBW (2.8 km distant) and SHUK, near the Mount Baker ski area, 16.1 km distant.

2. On November 12th, an M 1.1 earthquake was centered beneath the right valley wall of Park Creek on the east flank, nearly 10 km from the summit. Pacific Northwest Seismic Center’s report page: The event was reported at 4.5 km depth, but note the uncertainty in depth of this seismic event is less than the other, merely 15.87 km. The horizontal error is nearly 1 km. The waveforms are here:  MBW (15.8 km distant) and SHUK, near the Mount Baker ski area, 12.6 km distant.

In contrast, only one small earthquake was reported in 2013 (and that was likely due to blasting), and one each in 2012 and 2011.

For a comparison of relative seismicity at Cascade volcanoes over the past 30 days, visit this page:



Posted by: magmatist | October 12, 2014


Whatcom County Library System is sponsoring 3 Mount Baker talks.


Deming Library, October 18, 4 PM.

Ferndale Library, October 21, 7 PM.

Everson Library, November 8, 3 PM.


The talk presents the volcanic history of Mount Baker: eruptions, collapses, and the hazards this active volcano poses. The state of monitoring at the volcano will be discussed. The likely volcanic future and the potential for impacts on Whatcom-Skagit communities will close out the presentation.

Only 40,000 years old, the Mount Baker cone is about the same age as Mount St. Helens. Very little was known of its volcanic history until extensive geologic mapping by USGS geologists Wes Hildreth and Kevin Scott began in the mid 1990s. We now know that Mount Baker is but the youngest in a series of volcanoes in the immediate area extending back over 1,000,000 years. Other volcanoes in the Baker group include: two calderas that each erupted roughly 200 times as much ash as Mount Saint Helens did in 1980; a subglacial cone; and a number of once-sizable stratovolcanoes, most now eroded to nubs. Collapse of the volcano’s southwestern slope sent a large mudflow, or lahar, down the Middle Fork Nooksack River into the lowlands of Whatcom County and possibly as far as the Fraser River. Field studies continue to describe the post-glacial eruptive history. The newest, soon-to-be published research has revealed the patterns of ash deposits erupted from Mount Baker.

The presentations are given either by Dave Tucker , a research associate in the geology department at Western Washington University, or Doug McKeever, geology professor at Whatcom Community College. Both are board members of MBVRC, and have carried out considerable field work on the volcano.

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Posted by: magmatist | July 24, 2014

Mount Baker geothermal potential study published

A geothermal potential study for Washington State, just published by the Division of Geology and Earth Resources of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, includes discussion of the Mount Baker area.. The Geothermal Favorability Model of Washington State, by D. E. Boschmann, J. L. Czajkowski, and J. D. Bowman (2014) is available on line:

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The Mount Baker portion of the study focused on the Baker Hot Spring area between Mount Baker and Baker Lake Reservoir on the east side of the mountain, as that is where the only surface expression of heat is known. There is also some speculation on the potential within the Kulshan caldera, between the volcano and Mount Shuksan.

Study summary:  Geographic Information System (GIS) modeling of statewide heat, permeability, and infrastructure data, including volcanic centers, faults, earthquakes, temperature-gradient wells, thermal springs, young silicic intrusive rocks, and transmission lines produced layers showing relative geothermal favorability in Washington State. Regional modeling like this is one way to reduce costs in geothermal exploration by helping to more precisely locate areas worthy of additional research.

The entire discussion from the Baker section follows. The upshot is that while there may be considerable potential, infrastructure costs would be very high, and developement would be limited because the one of the most likely areas, within the Kulshan caldera, lies in the protected Mount Baker wilderness area.

The Mount Baker volcano and surrounding area have received considerable attention due to the presence of thermal features and young volcanic centers. Exploration activities have included detailed geologic mapping, spring sampling, geophysical surveys, soil mercury measurements, and limited temperature gradient drilling (Korosec, 1984). Chemical geothermometry of Baker Hot Springs suggests that reservoir equilibrium temperature of this system may reach as high as 150° to 170°C (Korosec, 1984). In 1983, a 140 – meter-deep (460 ft) temperature-gradient well was drilled near Baker Hot Springs. It had a bottomhole temperature of 48°C and a geothermal gradient between 200° and 309°C/km (Czajkowski and others, 2014c). However, this gradient is likely affected by hot spring circulation and may not represent a typical background value for the area.

Our modeled geothermal resource potential values near the Mount Baker/Kulshan Caldera suggest elevated resource potential, most notably in the area surrounding Kulshan Caldera (Fig. 6A) where no geothermal exploration has been performed to date. Kulshan Caldera is an oblate ~13-square-mile Pleistocene volcanic center located ~3.7 miles to the northeast of Mount Baker. Several Pleistocene andesite to rhyodacite vents and domes are located within the margins of the caldera, and late Pliocene to Pleistocene silicic intrusions are common in the surrounding area (Hildreth and others, 2003). However, our geothermal favorability model suggests that exploration for geothermal resources in this area would be unfavorable once transmission line proximity and elevation restrictions are considered (Fig. 6B). Further, much of the area with elevated resource potential lies within the Mount Baker Wilderness Area and is likely protected from any type of development.


Dear friends,

photo from INternational Porters Protection Project

photo from International Porters Protection Group

A MBVRC science team will head to Mount Baker’s Sherman Crater for the annual round of gas sample collection this coming Monday-Tuesday [July 28-29].

We are looking for a few day-hikers who can help get our science and some of our personal gear up to base camp. A load of 10-20 pounds per person is anticipated. The planned camp location is along the Railroad Grade Trail at about 5700′, in the last grove of trees. This is below the treeless climbers camp at the head of the Railroad Grade [Sandy Camp], and there is good trail all the way. The one way distance along the Park Butte and Railroad Grade trails  is about 3.5 miles, with 2400′ vertical gain. If you haven’t done this hike, it is spectacular as it runs along the crest of the razor-sharp 19th Century Railroad Grade moraine with great views of the Easton Glacier terminus and Mount Baker rising above. I will walk with volunteers if I can so I can point out some of the great geology along the way.

Please email right away if you’d like to join us:  research ‘at’

Please let us know where you would be coming from, how fit you are, and if you can drive other volunteers. You would need a pack big enough to carry your own day hike stuff plus a tent, rope, bag of food, or a box of science gear.

The climbing team will rendezvous in Bellingham at 10 AM, probably won’t get out of town until around 11. We can arrange to meet volunteer load carriers at the rendezvous, or elsewhere along the way, or at the Schreibers trailhead. We can figure out carpooling for the porters, who will be out for the day hike only.

If the weather is bad on Monday [forecast is currently good] we will bump our approach hike to Tuesday. Please let us know if you are available that day, just in case.

Many thanks,

Dave Tucker, MBVRC

Posted by: magmatist | June 30, 2014

Guided geology field trip to Park Butte, Mount Baker

Baker and the Black Buttes from the meadows below Park Butte.

Baker and the Black Buttes from the meadows below Park Butte.

The trip is full. You can still sign up (no fee) to be on the cancellation list.

MBVRC is offering a guided geology hike to Park Butte, near the south flank of Mount Baker. Registration information is below. The trip is oriented toward the general public with an interest in geology, but no previous geologic background is necessary.

Wednesday, August 20, 8:30 am to 6:00 pm.

The 7-to-8 mile round trip hike offers great views of Mount Baker’s glacier-clad south slope, the glacially-gutted Black Buttes volcano, and  the Twin Sisters range. We will see deposits left by glacier outburst floods, a Mount Baker lahar, the early Holocene Sulphur Creek lava, a rare type of lava for the Baker volcanic center (olivine basalt at Cathedral Crag), several volcanic ash layers, Pleistocene lake deposits, and some of the oldest rock known in the North Cascades (Yellow Aster gneiss in the Bell Pass Melange).  At Tarn Plateau we will see an orphan lava that is between Black Buttes and Mount Baker in age. We can visit one of the few remaining fire lookouts in the area on Park Butte, time and weather permitting. Hiking begins at the trail head in Schreibers Meadow.

Several layers of volcanic ash can be seen in trail cuts.

Several layers of volcanic ash can be seen in trail cuts.

The trip will be led by  Doug McKeever, geology professor (emeritus) at Whatcom Community College, assisted by Dave Tucker, adjunct faculty at Western Washington University. Both are board members of Mount Baker Volcano Research Center and have published on Mount Baker volcanic geology.

The cost is $75 person.This  includes transportation,  field trip pamphlet, and the services of your cheerful guides. $50 for those who attended a previous MBVRC field trip in 2014. Proceeds go to the MBVRC research and education fund. Van transportation is provided from our rendezvous in Bellingham, with an additional pickup spot near Sedro Woolley for folks coming from south of Bellingham.

Additional information: The Schreibers Meadow trailhead is at 3,350 feet and Park Butte lookout is at 5,450 feet. The grade is moderate and the trail is rocky in places but no scrambling is involved. You will need to bring a small backpack with lunch and water, plus clothing and footwear suitable for changeable mountain weather conditions. The trip is suitable for teens and up. The trip goes rain or shine.

REGISTRATION: MBVRC field trips fill quickly. Please reserve your spot via email to:

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You will receive payment and rendezvous instructions. This trip is limited to the first 20 paid persons. Your payment is a tax-deductible charitable contribution.

The bushwack up to the cinder cone rim. Click to enlarge.

The bushwack up to the cinder cone rim. Click to enlarge.


North Cascades Institute is offering a guided geology field trip to the 9500-year-old Schreibers Meadow cinder cone on the south flank of Mount Baker. The trip will be led by MBVRC’s Dave Tucker. The date is July 6th, and costs $95. Register at the NCI website:

The Schreibers cone is the only one in the Mount Baker volcanic field. It is located in old growth forest at 3500 feet elevation in Schreibers Meadow, just 1/2 mile from the end of the road. The trip will walk a short distance along the Park Butte/Railroad Grade trail, then veer off cross country (huckleberry meadow and some ponds) before the final 130′ climb up a steep forested slope to the crater rim. We’ll walk down to the soggy shores of the two crater lakes, and up to the opposite rim. After we return to the vans we’ll  examine scoria (the fragments of frozen lava that erupted from the cinder cone), and also the lava that followed after the scoria. Some of that lava entered a glacial lake that occupied the Baker River valley back in the day, and solidified underwater, and we’ll look at that lava, too. This is about the only place in the Cascades with easy access to subaqueous lava.

The Schreibers Meadow cinder cone, south flank of Mount Baker, seen from the north.. Click to enlarge.

The Schreibers Meadow cinder cone, south flank of Mount Baker, seen from the north. Click to enlarge.

No geologic training is needed for this fun hike and geo-tour. The cross country travel is not very difficult but you should be in at least a modicum of physical condition to manage the steep but short scramble through the bushes to the crater rim- and back down. Please direct all inquiries to North Cascades Institute.

Posted by: magmatist | March 29, 2014

2013 MBVRC financial statement

MBVRC is a 501 (C) 3 nonprofit. We depend on financial support from our friends and the fine folks who attend our educational presentations and join our field trips. The board of directors wishes to let you know where our funding comes from and where it goes. Here is the 2013 MBVRC financial statement. Thanks to all who donated, joined a field trip, or bought a shirt or a poster. This statement will be filed with the Washington State Secretary of State’s office and the IRS.

The 2013 MBVRC financail statement. Click to enlarge

The 2013 MBVRC financial statement. Click to enlarge


An excel spreadsheet is attached>

MBVRC financial statement

Our net income in 2013 was $683.27. Our largest expense was the research grant program: we awarded ($2751). T-shirt sales were our largest income source, with donations a close second. We had only one field trip in 2013, to the Baker River in early June. We plan more for 2014.

You can purchase a gift certificate for any MBVRC field trip. They cost $75; all you need to do is shoot an email (address below) and we’ll get one to you. Full info is here.

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Posted by: magmatist | March 7, 2014

Geology field trip April 12

West Beach, Deception Pass State Park consists of eroded Pleistocene glacial deposits. Fidalgo Island, across Deception Pass, consists of sea floor rocks accreted to the margin of North America.

West Beach, Deception Pass State Park consists of eroded Pleistocene glacial deposits. Fidalgo Island, across Deception Pass, consists of sea floor rocks accreted to the margin of North America.

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Register now for MBVRC’s April 12th guided geology field trip, oriented towards a general audience. The all-day trip is a fundraiser for our research and grant program. We will visit a number of outcrops at Deception Pass, Mount Erie, and the Chuckanut Coast. The trip leader is Scott Babcock, geology professor at Western Washington University and coauthor of ‘Hiking Guide to Washington Geology’ (originally published as ‘Hiking Washington’s Geology’). Scott has led geology trips for general audiences in many parts of the world. MBVRC gift certificates may be redeemed for this or any MBVRC field trip.

TRIP COST: the trip is open to each person who makes a minimum $75 tax-deductible donation to MBVRC, until the vans are full. MBVRC will provide van transport and handouts.                   

Ribbon chert deposited in the deep ocean is now exposed at Rosario Head.

Ribbon chert deposited in the deep ocean is now exposed at Rosario Head.

DESCRIPTION: Some really interesting geology is revealed by the landforms and rock outcrops found in the lowlands and foothills of Northwest Washington.  Most of the landscape and deposits of this area are the legacy of the advance of glaciers during the last Ice Age between 21,000 and 13,000 years ago.  However there are also scattered outcrops of bedrock that are millions of years old.  We will begin the trip with some of the youngest glacial deposits on Whidbey Island and work our way back to Bellingham through spectacular exposures of the older bedrock at Deception Pass, Mount Erie and elsewhere on Fidalgo Island, and finish up with younger rocks along Chuckanut Drive. We will inspect sea floor sedimentary rocks, pillow basalts, remnants of an oceanic magma chamber, and 60-million year old flood plain deposits of the Chuckanut Formation. There will be a series of short walks.  The longest will be about a quarter mile along the beach at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  The most strenuous will be 1/8 mile to Rosario Head (70′ elevation gain).  There will be other stops at Deception Pass, Mount Erie, and along Chuckanut.

Tilted marine sedimentary rocks at Deception Pass.

Tilted marine sedimentary rocks at Deception Pass.

We will travel in two rental vans, starting from Bellingham; there will be a couple of pick up points along the way if you join us from points south. The trip is open to all ages, and no prior geology is required. However, a basic understanding of plate tectonics, in particular subduction and terrane accretion will be useful.

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Mount Erie rocks were intruded beneath an oceanic volcanic island. Views from the top are spectacular.

Mount Erie rocks were intruded beneath an oceanic volcanic island before accretion to the North America. Views from the top are spectacular. Hope for good weather!

REGISTRATION: Registration is through advance donation to MBVRC. The trip is limited to the first 26 people making payment.

1. Send an email to MBVRC stating your intention to attend. Please put ‘field trip’ in the subject line of your message. You will receive payment information, and can pay through PayPal or personal check. If you have a gift certificate, let us know.

2. Trip confirmation is in order of contribution received.

MORE FIELD TRIPS will be offered later in the year, including Mount Baker hikes. Stay informed by taking out an email subscription to this blog using the subscription box at right.

The Spring 2014 Adventures NW.

The Spring 2014 Adventures NW.

Pick up* a free copy of Adventures NW magazine to find a fictional account of a near-future eruption at Mount Baker. The story was written by Dave Tucker, and contains a number of photos by John Scurlock, as well as a magnificently photoshopped rendition of Baker in eruption. Special insider info for MBVRC blog-o-philes: the eruption cloud is taken from a photo of Semeru (Java); the Baker view is a photo by John D’Onofrio (publisher/editor/chief cook and bottle washer at Adventures NW) taken from out in the San Juans. A photo essay will appear on the magazine’s website next week.

Bear in mind that the eruption story is one of only several possible scenarios for a Baker eruption. This one is based on the 6600 year old ‘BA’ tephra eruption, the largest from Sherman Crater in the geologic record. A lahar is generated (read the story to learn where it goes and what it does). Certainly a number of other Baker variations could be told. Much depends on wind direction, height and volume of the eruption plume, whether or not a volcanic landslide and lahar develop and in what drainage(s).

*Adventures NW is a free outdoors magazine published in Bellingham. Find it at “hundreds of locations region-wide, throughout Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, and Island counties, at select spots in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, and in Leavenworth, the Methow Valley, Spokane and Wenatchee. The magazine is also available at all REI locations in Washington and Oregon as well as at numerous locations in the Vancouver, BC metro area and through races and events and at visitor centers.”

Posted by: magmatist | February 27, 2014

Large plumes at Sherman Crater today

Feb. 27, 2014 gas plumes. Photo by Chris Farrow, Big Lake, Washington

Feb. 27, 2014 gas plumes. Photo by Chris Farrow, Big Lake, Washington

Atmospheric conditions were right this morning to see a sizable gas plume rising from Sherman Crater and rising over 1000 feet. There have not been many good plume shows this winter. The plume is about 99% steam; the remainder of the gas is mostly CO2 and H2S, which are ultimately derived from hot magmatic rocks at an unknown depth below the volcano. The photo was taken by Chris Farrow, who lives near Big Lake, east of Mount Vernon. Thanks, Chris.

Posted by: magmatist | February 7, 2014

Eruption simulation links repaired

The Mount Baker eruption simulation links have been updated; you will find them here:

This model simulates a repeat of the largest eruption at Baker that is preserved in the geologic record as it would behave today, using the latest NOAA wind data. This data is updated 3 times per day.  This models the 6600 year old “BA ash eruption”, with a duration of 6 hours and with a plume reaching 8 km into the atmosphere (about 5 km above the summit of Mount Baker). It is instructive to return to this page as weather changes in the Baker area- where might ash fall on any given day?

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