Did you know that the U.S. is one of the most volcanic countries in the world? There are more than 160 active volcanoes in the nation—but which ones could cause the most damage if they erupt?
On Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released an update of its national volcanic threat assessment for the first time since 2005 and categorized 18 volcanoes as "very high threat."
At the top of the list is Hawaii's infamous Kilauea, which destroyed about 700 homes and terrorized parts of the Big Island for months after it erupted in May.
Which #volcanoes are the most threatening in the U.S.? Hot off the Press - 2018 update to @USGS Volcanic Threat… https://t.co/RUgTGtZuMV— USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGS Volcanoes🌋)1540420424.0
The top five were rounded out by Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington, Redoubt Volcano in Alaska and Mount Shasta in California.
The report doesn't tell you which of these fire mountains will blow next—scientists can't exactly do that yet. Rather, the aim is to help lawmakers, scientists and people living near volcanoes "mitigate damaging effects of these forces of nature," the document states.
If you take a look at the 18 "very high threat" volcanoes, 11 of them are located in Washington, Oregon or California, where explosive and often snow- and ice-covered edifices can project hazards long distances to densely populated and highly developed areas, according to the report.
Five of them are in Alaska near important population centers, economic infrastructure or below busy air traffic corridors, the researchers determined. Similarly, two very high threat volcanoes are on Hawaii, near densely populated and highly developed areas.
Kilauea is not only the country's most active volcano, "it's got a lot of development right on its flanks," government volcanologist John Ewert, the report's chief author, told the Associated Press.
U.S. Geological Survey national volcanic threat assessmentUSGS
According to the AP, the ranking system is based on volcano type, explosiveness, recent activity, eruption frequency, if it leads to seismic activity, proximity to human populations, past evacuations and if eruptions disrupt air traffic. They are then sorted into five threat categories: very low, low, moderate, high and very high.
This year's 18 big ones were the same as the ranking from 2005. The very low threat category had the greatest change from the previous report, dropping from 32 to 21 volcanoes.
So what about Yellowstone? The supervolcano is ranked at number 21 on the list under the "high risk" section. Mike Poland, scientist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, commented to the AP: "We don't really have any indication that Yellowstone is doing anything abnormal."
Climate Change Could Set Off Volcanoes https://t.co/UsDcXQFT0Q @YEARSofLIVING @ClimateReality @MichaelEMann @UCSUSA @DeSmogBlog— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523554680.0
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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