We really need to be ready for volcanoes in the Southwest


TetiIla Peak is the southernmost andesite volcano in the Cerros del Rio volcanic field

In my neck of the prairie we call this volcanic plateau the Caja del Rio. I live a few miles due North of La Tetilla. The southern end of the Caja del Rio lies due West of us – aligned North/South.

The southwest United States has thousands of volcanoes that were only active for a very short period of time and, a new analysis published in the journal Geosphere urges emergency managers to be aware of the potential for further volcanic activity.

The authors of the study counted 2,229 volcanoes in 37 volcanic fields located in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. While it is dotted with volcanic fields, the region has not received the same amount of attention for its volcanism as some other areas of the country such as the Pacific Northwest, which is home to volcanoes like Mount Saint Helens and Mount Rainier.

Greg Valentine, a lead author on the paper and a geology professor at the University of Buffalo, said one reason that the volcanoes in the southwest have not received as much attention is that no eruptions have occurred since geology became an official science in the 1700s. Meanwhile, the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest has had modern explosions, such as Mount Saint Helens.

The type of volcanoes found in the southwest are also different from those of the Pacific Northwest. While scientists monitor Mount Saint Helens and other volcanoes for activity that could signal another eruption, Valentine said the future eruptions in the southwest are unlikely to come from the same spot, or vent, where past eruptions occurred…

“For this issue in the southwest, though, it’s a much more complicated problem because the area that we’re talking about is huge, obviously,” Valentine said.

Our “little” next door neighbor – the Caja del Rio – is 84,000 acres.


Nearest dead volcano, BTW = half-mile away