Mount Baker Volcano Research Center


With the development of the MBVRC blog, this page is no longer being updated. For updated news and reports about Mount Baker research, monitoring, and MBVRC activities, please visit the Mount Baker Volcano Research Center blog. An email subscription to the blog is available to all. You’ll also find ways to support MBVRC’s nonprofit work by purchasing calendars, t-shirts, posters, or signing up for field trips.

July 2011

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MBVRC begins field trip program

A program of fundraising guided field trips to Mount Baker geology has begun. The trips will be announced on the MBVRC email subscription blog, The trips examine volcanic deposits; most discuss future volcanic hazards based on the geologic record. Trips are open to the public, and you do not need to have a geology background to participate (although a healthy curiosity will help). A tax deductable fee is charged, which supports further MBVRC educational and research activities. Subscribe to the email subscription blog to stay up to date with MBVRC events.

MBVRC elects new members to Board of Directors

Sue Madsen and John Scurlock have been elected to the Board of MBVRC, joining Pete Stelling and Dave Tucker. Kevin Scott has retired. Sue, a stream restoration ecologist, brings prior experience with nonprofit organizations. John says he figures “it’s time for payback because Mount Baker has been so good to me”. (See John’s galleries of Mount Baker aerial photographs at

April 12, 2010 News update

Mount Baker Volcano Research Center is now a tax exempt ‘Public Charity’, according to the US Internal Revenue Service. We have been granted 501(c)(3) status, meaning that donations are tax deductible. We can now solicit tax-deductible donations which will be passed along to people involved in Baker geology. If you wish to contribute toward our research fund, please do so. Contact: for more information. An updated list of research projects at Mount Baker will be posted later this spring.
Current members of the MBVRC Board of Directors are Dave Tucker and Pete Stelling, at WWU, and Kevin M. Scott, USGS-CVO emeritus

February 2010

Second seismometer installed at Mount Baker

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) has installed a second seismometer on the northeast flank of Mount Baker. The new broad band station, coded SHUK, augments the older MBW, on the west flank of the volcano. Two seismometers should help locate earthquake foci beneath the volcano more precisely, as well as other seismic activity elsewhere in the region. Although still under-monitored, this is an improvement; funding comes from an infusion of Federal money into USGS and associated volcano monitoring programs, such as University of Washington’s PNSN. Wes Thelen, of PNSN, says that “we want to up the amount of monitoring before they erupt so that we’re not sent scrambling when they do actually do start up”.

SHUK is located near the Mount Baker Ski Area. “The installation could not have been accomplished without the assistance and continuing support of the Mount Baker Ski Area”, Wes Thelen said. Data are available to the public by going here for webicorder data of all volcano seismometers in the Cascade arc. Choose the station you are interested in to see the data for a particular 12 hour period. Or, enter SHUK (or any seismometer code identifier) in the search box on this page to see data. There are now 20 seismometers on the US side of the arc. In addition to the 2 on Baker, Rainier and Mount Saint Helens are now well covered; there is one on Glacier Peak and others on Hood, Adams, Three Sisters, and Crater Lake.

For information on volcano monitoring methods in general, the Geological Survey of Canada has a nice synopsis here. However, there are no seismometers on the flanks of any of the several potentially active volcanoes in Canada.

Understanding data in the ‘latest earthquakes’ table for Mount Baker

Several visitors to the MBVRC website have asked about data on the Baker seismology data table to which we have a link on the links page. In particular, the meaning of the code in the column labeled ‘QUAL’ was not understood. Wes Thelen, at PNSN, explains: “The QUAL simply assigns two different parts of the location solution to letters between A and D.  The first is a measure of the earthquake location residuals.  You can think of it as the errors between the actual phase picks and the expected phase picks.  The second letter is a measure of the station distribution around the earthquake.  This often can't be changed by just changing the phase picks.  Of course neither quality measure is purely independent of the other, but it provides a quick check of the overall quality of the location.  For research purposes, we usually only consider AA, BB, or BA events to be good.  We don't like to publish things worse than a CC.  Unfortunately at Baker, the station configuration means that most events will have a C or D in the second quality metric.  Hopefully, the addition of SHUK will improve that.”

Of the most recent 20 earthquakes recorded at Baker (as of January 10, 2010, the most recent update), only two (August 2, 2009) and the most recent (January 9, 2010) have location and magnitude data even approaching the research quality events Wes talks about (each is BC in’quality’). In contrast, visit the tables for Saint Helens and Rainier to see the difference in QUAL that result from more seismometers. With time, we should see improvement in this as SHUK comes in to play.

Also note that the PNSN tables now remind us that earthquake data is only updated when there is a new earthquake tracked by one of the seismometers.

New Baker abstracts at 2009 GSA and AGU meetings

See the ‘Abstracts’ page for links to seven new abstracts related to Mount Baker. Abstracts from the Fall 2009 GSA annual meeting in Portland were authored by Melissa Park and others, 2009 (Sherman Crater ice-penetrating radar); Dave Tucker and others, 2009 (Carmelo Crater ice-penetrating radar); Nikki Moore and Sue DeBari, 2009 (mafic magma evolution); and Emily Mullen and Ian McCallum, 2009 (lead isotope studies).

Abstracts from the Fall American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco deal with new seismic studies at Mount Baker, including a seismic swarm from the summer of 2009: Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, W.A. Thelen, and Seth Moran (2 abstracts). Nichols, Malone, Moran, Thelen, and Vidale tell us about deep long-period earthquakes in the Cascades, mostly beneath Mount Baker. Click on the title of the abstracts to read the texts.

Notes on trip to Dorr Fumarole Field posted here

A report and photos were provided to MBVRC by Dr. Jeff Witter, Vancouver, B.C. Jeff studies gas emissions at active volcanoes. He heads up the International Volcano Monitoring Fund, a non-profit organization that seeks to assist third world volcano monitoring programs.

Troy Baggerman completes his thesis, submits paper to JVGR

Troy Baggerman successfully defended his Masters thesis at WWU this spring. Troy studied the genesis of andesite at Mount Baker, paying particular attention to trace element and Rare Earth Element geochemistry. An abstract of his research is available on the abstracts page (Baggerman, T. and DeBari, S.M., 2007- ). Troy and his advisor Sue DeBari have submitted a paper to Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. Troy will probably really miss his many hours in the lab crushing his collected rocks for chemical analyses.

WWU’s Melissa Park receives big bucks to study Sherman Crater glacier

Melissa Park was awarded $30,000 in research and scholarship funds from the National Science Foundation in June 2009. Melissa, a Western Washington University Geology graduate student, will continue her ice-penetrating radar and glacier-stake project to study movement, volume, and potential melting hazards associated with the glacier inside Mount Baker's Sherman crater.

Melissa’s NSF Graduate Fellowship will provide her with up to $30,000 per year for three years to fund her studies and research.  The grant allows her to compensate field assistants for their time and oh-so-valuable efforts in hauling her ice-penetrating radar and camping gear to Sherman Crater, as well as supporting her academic costs at WWU.

"Not only will the financial aspect allow me to concentrate on my research during my years at Western, but the NSF Fellowship is also well recognized," she said. "This will open many doors for me in my future studies."

Melissa is a native of Noumea in the South Pacific. She received her bachelor's degree from WWU in Geology in 2008, and hopes to earn a doctorate in Glaciology after she finishes her master's degree at Western.

Sandy Creek mapped for Baker geologic map

The remote reaches of Sandy Creek, on Mount Baker’s eastern flank, were mapped during a three-day traverse this September by Dave Tucker and Keith Kemplin. The valley, which drains the Squak Glacier, was the largest unknown area left to be detailed for the Mount Baker geologic map being prepared by Wes Hildreth of the USGS. Mapping showed the relative distribution of Mount Baker and older Black Buttes lava flows in the deglaciated basin below the receding ice tongue, and will provide more detail than shown on the current small scale map (Hildreth and others, 2003, page 748). The traverse also determined the distribution of a series of a few large debris flows, in aggregate as much as 20 m thick, down to an elevation of 2400 feet. These are probably remobilized volcaniclastic deposits from glacial outburst floods, rather than lahars spawned by eruptions. The valley-filling volcaniclastics in Sandy Creek are younger than the Boulder Creek assemblage just to the north: there is no SC ash (ca. 8800 14C years BP) covering the Sandy Creek fan, but Mount Mazama layer O (6800 14C years BP) is present.

New GPS monuments established on Baker

In 2007, Brendan Hodge (Western Washington University) made a  GPS resurvey of Mount Baker benchmarks as part of his MS thesis.  This survey determined that since 1981, Mount Baker has deflated.  Over a three week period this past summer, he installed and surveyed six new benchmarks to augment and expand the geodetic network on Mount Baker. New benchmarks were installed at locations lower and further from the summit of Mount Baker in order to better detect deformation resulting from a deep source.  The destroyed benchmark at Sherman Crater, dating to 1975, was also replaced to provide a baseline measurement near the center of geothermal activity. This mark could also be used as reference for ongoing research with Sherman Crater.  These surveys were supported by Dr. Juliet Crider with field assistance from Melissa Park and others.  

Crater rim revealed during extended snow melt at Baker

An extended period of melting that lasted nearly to the end of September dramatically revealed the rim of Carmelo crater, the ice-filled crater under the summit ice cap at Mount Baker. This crater was active while Baker’s edifice was being built-up in the latest Pleistocene. The rim stretches across the entire width of the Roman Wall, at about 10,600. A pair of rock samples were collected from this pile of ejecta by American Alpine Institute climbing guide Forest McBrian. Snowfall at the end of September 2009 has already buried the ‘Gray Band’ for the year.  Assuming the rim is again revealed next year, a detailed study will be made. The crater rim has been observed in particularly dry years since about 2003. They also show in a 1912 photo, and on a 1940 vertical aerial photo. Both photos are in the MBVRC archive.

Webcam links

Several Mount Baker webcam links have been added on the ‘links page’. These show views of Mount Baker from three different angles.


This spring, we affiliated with the Geology Department at Western Washington University. The hope is to allow us to solicit research funds under the University's non-profit umbrella. We have begun collecting an archive of research papers and unpublished material that could be useful for future Mount Baker researchers.  We have just received a collection from William Halliday, who explored the ice caves of Sherman Crater in the 1970s. Included are photographs from his explorations, and his unpublished reports to the US Forest Service and National Speleological Society. The archive will be held at WWU, but we intend to make the material available to any researchers with an interest. We will eventually have a database on this website describing the materials we hold.


Several projects are continuing at Mount Baker. They are briefly described below. MBVRC will post photos, data and interim reports from these studies as they become available.

Sherman Crater fumarole sampling

Sherman Crater fumarolic gases were sampled in August, 2007 for the second year in a row, the first sample series in a decade or more, as part of a joint WWU-Cascade Volcano Observatory NSF project. Climbers descended into the crater from the West Rim and collected gas at four fumaroles. Data from these specimens are here. There was little change in chemistry since the previous sampling. [See photos]

Mount Baker Holocene eruptive history and tephra studies

Dave Tucker and Kevin Scott are wrapping up their field studies for an extensive USGS Professional Paper on Holocene activity at Mount Baker. This project has been underway for a number of years. A number of abstracts have detailed various aspects of that work. Dave is continuing his independent investigation into the distribution of the YP ash, erupted during the last magmatic activity at Sherman Crater in the mid-19th Century. They have submitted a paper to Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research on the interplay between the early Holocene Sulphur Creek basalt lava and Glacial Lake Baker. Some tephra photos are on our Images page.

2007 GSA Mount Baker Symposium on Mount Baker

A highlight of the May 2007 Cordilleran GSA meeting at Western Washington University was the large number of research papers presented at the special symposium on Baker research. Abstracts from the symposium, and a few from other sessions, are listed on the Abstracts page. The field guide, edited by WWU's Dave Tucker and Pete Stelling, includes a field trip by Dave, Kevin Scott, and David Lewis that visits Holocene lava, lahar and debris avalanche deposits on the east flank of Mount Baker. The meeting guidebook is available from GSA.

July 2007- Large ice and rock debris avalanche descends Boulder Glacier

On July 26th, a large mass of snow and ice broke off the east slope of Sherman Peak just below the summit. Sherman Peak is the high triangular peak on the south rim of Sherman Crater, just south of the deep East Breach. The slide quickly rode over outcrops of rock and hydrothermally altered pyroclastics, and became a muddy slurry. The dark, wet mass slid east down the Boulder Glacier for three kilometers before it stopped just short of the glacier terminus. A party of climbers was preparing to cross the glacier and witnessed the debris flow, which they said shook the ground and made a deafening roar. Such slides are periodic events at this precise location, and may be due to thermal activity in the source area. Frank and others (1975) estimated a volume of 35,000 m3 for a very similar slide. Dr. Jackie Caplan-Auerbach at Western Washington University has studied these phenomena in Alaska, and will continue this work at Mount Baker. Images of the slide deposit are dramatic. More images can be see on page 4 of John Scurlock's website. See also a paper describing earlier debris avalanches:

Frank, D., Post, A., and Friedman, J. D., 1975, Recurrent geothermally induced debris avalanches on Boulder Glacier, Mount Baker, Washington; Journal of Research, US Geological Survey, v. 3 n. 1, pp. 77-87

image by John Scurlock