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Recent earthquake swarm at Mount Rainier doesn’t signal impending eruption

Scientists have recorded a recent earthquake swarm at Mount Rainier, seen here from the Fremont Lookout trail earlier this month, but there is no reason to think an eruption is imminent.
Scientists have recorded a recent earthquake swarm at Mount Rainier, seen here from the Fremont Lookout trail earlier this month, but there is no reason to think an eruption is imminent. adam.lynn@thenewstribune.com

Nearly two dozen small earthquakes have rattled Mount Rainier over the past week, but seismologists say there’s no cause for worry.

“In the past, these swarms last a couple of days to a week or so and then die out,” said Paul Bodin, of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington.

The first of the 23 quakes struck on Sept. 11 near the volcano’s summit. The largest of the quakes registered magnitude 1.6.

Earthquake swarms are common at volcanos and usually don’t signify any threat of eruption, Bodin said in an email.

“So I’m treating this as a single eyebrow raised halfway,” he wrote. “Yeah, I see you and will be watching, but I don’t think you’re going to attack.”

Most volcanic quake swarms originate in the hydrothermal plumbing system, related to slight changes in temperature or groundwater pressure that cause cracking of the rocks, Bodin explained. The recent quakes are shallow, which also suggests they are not connected to the deep movement of magma.

Rainier experienced similar upticks in the past two years, and a more sustained episode of seismic activity in 2009.

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