Video shows steam vents in a crater on Mount Baker
It’s possible that even Mount Baker hates the persistent cold weather, because Bellingham’s neighborhood stratovolcano snorted in apparent disgust over the weekend.
It wasn’t an eruption, but rather a puff of steam or gas that occurs daily — although we lowlanders don’t always notice the difference between regular clouds and a hiccup from Sherman Crater astride the mountain’s snowy peak.
“The lighting made it a bit harder to distinguish if the cloud was a steam cloud at first,” said Nadja Rua of Anacortes, who saw the volcanic belch during a morning ferry ride to Orcas Island.
It came almost a year to the date after Western Washington residents noticed an impressive venting on the morning of March 17, 2018.
“The lighting wasn’t as good as last year, but my hubby and I were commenting on it and I took a few pics from the outside deck,” Rua said via Facebook Messenger.
Mark Swenson of Bellingham photographed the venting about a half-hour before dawn from Ferndale Road, as a small lenticular cloud swirled in the golden sky above the 10,781-foot mountain that’s about 30 miles east of Bellingham.
“It was (Saturday) early in the morning and lasted for a good couple hours,” Swenson said via Messenger. “I’ve a seen a little venting in the past, but not to that degree.“
Dave Tucker, of the Mount Baker Volcano Research Center and a research associate in the Geology Department at Western Washington University, said the active volcano vents gas constantly.
“(It’s) sometimes visible, sometimes not. But gas clouds are always present,” he told The Bellingham Herald in 2018.
In an email Monday, Tucker said winter is often the best time for lowland residents to see the gas plumes.
“Gas plume visibility is enhanced in winter with temperature contrast between the gases (largely steam) and the atmosphere,” Tucker said. “Sunlight from behind the plume helps with visibility, so it is usually more notable in the morning.”
Mount Baker, known to indigenous people as “Kulshan,” last erupted in 1843, but the U.S. Geological Survey recently told The Associated Press that Washington state’s third-highest peak remains a serious threat because of its proximity to people.
No recent earthquake activity has been recorded near Mount Baker, according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, a University of Washington center that monitors the region.
The date of Mount Baker’s last eruption was corrected March 5, 2019.