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Old sticks in the mud: Hazards of lahars from Mount Rainier volcano

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Author(s): Patrick T. Pringle

Document Type: Curriculum for the biogregion
Publisher: SERC-Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College
Published Year: 2012
DOI Identifier:
ISBN Identifier:

A thematic "big idea" for these exercises as related to geological processes is that volcanic debris flows (lahars) can flow long distances, bury and aggrade river valleys, and cause long-term stream disturbances and dramatic landscape changes. The big idea related to sustainability is that humans are connected to Earth systems and thus, to nature.

Several activities can be done individually or in sequence by students in one class over time. To prepare for these activities, the students will first read a US Geological Survey (USGS) overview about volcanic hazards and then USGS Fact Sheet 2008-3062 by Driedger and Scott (2008) which will help them answer a series of questions about Mount Rainier's hazards. An initial reading activity is based on "The lake on Mount Rainier", a short oral history of the Puyallup Tribe related by Ella E. Clark (1953) and/or on a different version of this oral history, "A young man's ascent of Mount Rainier (first version)" by Arthur Ballard (1929). A later, perhaps final reading activity will consist of reading online materials about the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Columbia in 1985, which killed 23,000 in the town of Armero. That town is the same distance from Nevado del Ruiz as Orting, Washington is from Mount Rainier. The lab activities will include using diagrams prepared by geologists to calculate landscape changes in valleys downstream of Mount Rainier over geologic time. Such changes include the progradation of shorelines through geologic time, the amount of new land area produced by volcanic sedimentation, approximate volumes of volcanic debris, and changes in the channel length and stream gradient caused by the deposition of past lahars and lahar-derived sediments.

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Pringle (2012) or (Pringle, 2012)

References Citation:
Pringle, P.T., 2012, Old sticks in the mud: Hazards of lahars from Mount Rainier volcano: Curriculum for the biogregion, SERC-Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College,