Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Way Too Much Smoke: Volcanoes (and Rivers and Ridges) in the Pacific Northwest

Mt. Jefferson
There I was minding my own business while flying north from RNO to SEA (that is to say, I was reading a thick book and trying to ignore a seatmate while crammed against the window near the rear of a Q400), when I looked out (to the east) and spotted the peak of an Oregon volcano sticking out through what I first thought was a low, thick cloud cover. I grabbed a few quick shots through a badly spotted and smeared window, while rapidly revising my reckoning about the cloud bank: no clouds, just a very dense blanket of smoke.

Whereas I first estimated I was somewhere over central Oregon south of Sisters or Bend, it soon became apparent that I was probably a little farther north than I thought — and it turns out I was between Sisters and Portland looking at Mt. Jefferson (first photo).
Mt. Hood
The photo above shows Mt. Hood barely sticking up above the dense smoke bank. Hard to say exactly, but it looks like the smoke is about 10,000 feet thick! Hood's peak sits at an elevation of 11,240 feet, and its south shoulder sits at somewhat above 10,400 or 10,600 feet (depending on what part of the shoulder we're actually looking at); the Portland outliers of Troutdale and Springdale in the foreground have elevations of about 100 feet and 300 feet, respectively. As a geographical point of interest, the larger, streamlined island on the north side of the wide Columbia River is Reed Island. The river beyond the island fades gradually and then disappears abruptly in the distance.
Mt. St. Helens
My first view of Mt. St. Helens was of what I call the back side (the south side). It's clearly not an ordinary Cascade volcano by today's standard of nice, symmetrical peaks, although several Cascade volcanoes are known to have created lateral blasts like the one St. Helens produced in May, 1980 — and maybe all or most have done something like that sometime in the past.
Mt. St. Helens
This second shot of Mt. St. Helens (above) shows the South Fork of the Toutle River in the foreground and Spirit Lake in the background.
Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams can be seen in the distance, barely sticking up above the smoke, even though it reaches an elevation of 12,277 feet!
North Fork Toutle River
This view of the Toutle River (Google Maps location) shows an area just above the Toutle River Sediment Retention Structure. The berg of St. Helens sits across from a green, tear-dropped-shaped "island" that is marked as hill 11227 on some topographic maps (e.g. this one at the USGS TNM 2.0 Viewer).
Smoke amid the low hills between Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Ranier
One last look at Mt. St. Helens
Mt. Ranier
Mt. Ranier, the tallest Cascade volcano at an elevation of 14,410 feet, rises above the smoke more than any of the others. The clouds obscuring its peak make it appear to be erupting (it wasn't).
A last view of Mt. Ranier, seen as the airplane descended toward SeaTac.
Smoky wisps interfinger with some low hills north of the airport after take off several hours later.
Photos taken 26August15 between 10:13am and 4:59 pm, PDT.

A Bit More about Mt. St. Helens:
Where in the West: Mt. St. Helens — LFD
Mt. St. Helens Field Trip — LFD
It's the 35th Anniversary of the Big Ba-Boom: Mount St. Helens and the May 18th Eruption — Rosetta Stones
Why Have Volcanoes in the Cascades Been So Quiet Lately?  — Eruptions

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