(p. D1) On Mount Hood, “any little thing that happens could have a big consequence,” said Dr. Moran, scientist-in-charge at the federal Cascades Volcano Observatory.
And yet the volcano is hardly monitored. If scientists miss early warning signs of an eruption, they might not know the volcano is about to blow until it’s too late.
Determined to avoid such a tragedy, Dr. Moran and his colleagues proposed installing new instruments on the flanks of Mount Hood in 2014. Those include three seismometers to measure earthquakes, three GPS instruments to chart ground deformation and one instrument to monitor gas emissions at four different locations on the mountain.
But they quickly hit a major hiccup: The monitoring sites are in wilderness areas, meaning that the use of the land is tightly restricted. It took five years before the Forest Service granted the team approval in August.
The approval is a promising step forward, but Dr. Moran and his colleagues still face limitations, including potential legal action that may block their work.
Such obstacles are a problem across the United States where most volcanoes lack adequate monitoring. Although federal legislation passed in March could help improve the monitoring of volcanoes like Mount Hood, scientists remain concerned that red tape could continue to leave them blind to future eruptions, with deadly consequences.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 9, 2019, and has the title “We’re Barely Listening to the U.S.’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes.”)