SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - The office of the California Seismic Safety Commission has determined that the drought conditions prevalent in the western U.S. may create an unstable situation for currently dormant volcanoes. California has plenty of hazards like earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, and flooding, but scientists are warning, "Let's not forget our hundreds of volcanoes!"
According to scientists with the USGS Volcano Research Center, the heavy snow pack seen normally blanketing volcanoes like Mt. Shasta during the winter are now missing because of the drought. In normal winter conditions these snow packs have a cooling effect on the volcanoes, which mitigates their eruptive tendencies. Without these snow packs, it is possible that dormant volcanoes may become extremely active this summer.
"It may be a hot time in the ole West this summer and it won't just be the hot temperatures caused by the changes in the Gulf Stream," states Vulcanologist, Dr. Jerry Howitzer. "We are likely to see intense volcanic activity, particularly among the more than 500 volcanic vents that exist in the State of California. We know that at least 76 of these vents have erupted during the past 10,000 years. Some of these have erupted repeatedly."
To monitor the situation more closely, the Governor has ordered California National Guard units to patrol the most volatile vents and hang out in Volcano Warning Stations (VWS) placed strategically throughout the state this summer. These stations are basically 5th wheel R.V.s that can be moved around at a moment's notice. Because there aren't enough vulcanologists to monitor all the vents, other government agencies are being tapped.
Explains Dr. Howitzer, "These soldiers will be our first line of defense when a volcano shows signs of erupting. Should an eruption occur and should the soldiers actually have time to get themselves out of danger, they can warn the rest of us. Otherwise, it will be disastrous for towns like Shasta, Lake Shastina, and Weed. Californians need to be prepared for such possibilities and take measures to have a plan of evacuation should the need arise."
When asked which volcano he will be monitoring this summer, Dr. Howitzer stated, "i will be taking a much needed sabbatical in Florida."