Stunning images of the Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii have wowed people all over the U.S. and the world and led to surprising reminders for some Californians that the state has volcanoes of its own.
At least 19, to be more precise, with seven of them considered to be “high threat” or “very high threat” volcanoes, per the U.S. Geological Survey in California.
CA volcanoes are monitored by scientists at the USGS California Volcano Observatory. The state has 7 high to very high threat volcanoes, learn more about them at https://t.co/eZTainD5mP pic.twitter.com/ZVq1IOk7nm
— Cynthia Pridmore (@earthquakemom) May 9, 2018
Believe it or not, a volcanic eruption like the one in Hawaii could happen here in California.
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“California is not only earthquake country, it’s volcano country too,” Dr. Margaret Mangan said.
Dr. Mangan runs the California Volcano Observatory at the USGS. She says that while there is not currently an active volcano in California, another eruption is inevitable.
One underlying fact about some of these volcanoes is that California sits directly on top of the so-called Ring of Fire, which is responsible for earthquake and volcanic activity in a vast region touching coasts on the Pacific Ocean. Some of the countries on the Ring of Fire are Australia, Japan, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Chile.
What else should we know about California’s volcanoes? Here’s some quick facts.
19 or more volcanic areas in California
Not all volcanoes in California are monitored by the USGS, but at least 19 regions are on its radar. Those include:
Clear Lake Volcanic Field
Coso Volcanic Field
Eagle Lake Volcanic Field
Golden Trout Creek Volcanic Field
Lassen Volcanic Center
Lavic Lake Volcanic Field
Long Valley Caldera
Mono Lake Volcanic Field
Silver Lake Volcanic Field
Seven are a potential threat
Depending on the size and proximity to populated areas, only a few volcanoes are considered a potential threat. Three volcanoes are considered a “very high threat”:
Lassen Volcanic Center, which is in Northern California east of Redding.
Long Valley Caldera, which is in Mono County, north east of the Fresno valley.
Mount Shasta, which is about 61 miles north of Redding.
Four are considered a “high threat”:
Clear Lake Volcanic Field, which is just north of the Napa Valley.
Medicine Lake, which is in Northern California close to the border to Oregon.
Mono-Inyo Chain, which is also in the central California region.
Salton Buttes, which is in Southern California by the Salton Sea.
Four reported deaths
California’s volcanoes haven’t proven to be all that deadly compared to other parts of the world. From 1784 to 2017, there have been only four reported deaths related to volcanic activity in California, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Applied Volcanology.
One skier died from volcanic gas inhalation near a lake in Mammoth in 1998, and three others died from similar gas inhalation in the same area in 2006, the study reported.
Most recorded volcano deaths in the U.S., some 421 fatalities, have occurred from direct or indirect activity at Kilauea.
Is there a volcano in San Diego County?
The short answer: not anymore.
Geologist Michael Levenson said some 22 million years ago there was one in a region that is now part of Carlsbad. When that volcano became extinct, it created what’s called a “volcanic plug” and is now a popular hiking destination named Mount Calavera.
At least at the moment, a more pressing concern than volcanoes across California is … earthquakes.
But often even the most seasoned seismology experts sleep through those.