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Current status of the Mount Rainier (Washington) lahar detection system

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Author(s): Weston A. Thelen, Kate E. Allstadt, Rebecca Kramer, Christopher Lockett, Andrew B. Lockhart, Benjamin Pauk, Seth C. Moran

Document Type: Presentation #V51K-0254
Publisher: American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA
Published Year: 2019
DOI Identifier:
ISBN Identifier:

High on the west side of Mount Rainier, Washington lies a mass of hydrothermally altered rock susceptible to collapse, a process that has spawned destructive lahars several times in the volcano’s past. In response to this ongoing hazard, the U.S. Geological Survey is in the early stages of upgrading the Rainier Lahar Detection System (RLDS) that was installed in 1998. Though the old system has performed admirably (i.e., no false alarms), the equipment has limited capabilities and is approaching obsolescence, and as a result is increasingly difficult to maintain and experiencing increased downtime. The in-progress upgrades to the RLDS are leveraging advances in technology and a better understanding of the characteristics of a lahar signal to build an improved detection system that has the potential to provide earlier detection and increased situational awareness to emergency officials responsible for evacuating downstream populations. Though the fully implemented system is still years away, the instrumentation around the Puyallup and Mowich River drainages on the western flank of Mount Rainier is nearly complete. The upgraded system features high-sample-rate broadband seismometers and digital telemetry, augmented by webcams, single infrasound sensors and, at four sites, three-element infrasound arrays. As of this writing, 10 new broadbands have been installed. The design goal is to create an alarm system that uses two independent datastreams (seismic and infrasound) to detect surface flows of varying sizes with no false alarms that result in needless evacuations. At a minimum, webcams will be used to confirm remote autonomous observations, but image processing may be incorporated into the automated detection system at a future date. We are currently in the process of software design, algorithm testing, and calibrating the network with smaller rockfall signals and high-water-flow events originating from the volcano. Additional instrumentation is currently planned on the other drainages of the volcano (Nisqually, White, Ohanapecosh) with a particular emphasis on the Nisqually drainage within Mount Rainier National Park because of the proximity to people and infrastructure.

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Thelen and others (2019) or (Thelen et al., 2019)

References Citation:
Thelen, W.A., K.E. Allstadt, R. Kramer, C. Lockett, A.B. Lockhart, B. Pauk, and S.C. Moran, 2019, Current status of the Mount Rainier (Washington) lahar detection system: Presentation #V51K-0254, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA,