Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 71, Issue 6, pp 595–618 | Cite as

Frequent eruptions of Mount Rainier over the last ∼2,600 years

  • T. W. SissonEmail author
  • J. W. Vallance
Research Article


Field, geochronologic, and geochemical evidence from proximal fine-grained tephras, and from limited exposures of Holocene lava flows and a small pyroclastic flow document ten–12 eruptions of Mount Rainier over the last 2,600 years, contrasting with previously published evidence for only 11–12 eruptions of the volcano for all of the Holocene. Except for the pumiceous subplinian C event of 2,200 cal year BP, the late-Holocene eruptions were weakly explosive, involving lava effusions and at least two block-and-ash pyroclastic flows. Eruptions were clustered from ∼2,600 to ∼2,200 cal year BP, an interval referred to as the Summerland eruptive period that includes the youngest lava effusion from the volcano. Thin, fine-grained tephras are the only known primary volcanic products from eruptions near 1,500 and 1,000 cal year BP, but these and earlier eruptions were penecontemporaneous with far-traveled lahars, probably created from newly erupted materials melting snow and glacial ice. The most recent magmatic eruption of Mount Rainier, documented geochemically, was the 1,000 cal year BP event. Products from a proposed eruption of Mount Rainier between AD 1820 and 1854 (X tephra of Mullineaux (US Geol Surv Bull 1326:1–83, 1974)) are redeposited C tephra, probably transported onto young moraines by snow avalanches, and do not record a nineteenth century eruption. We found no conclusive evidence for an eruption associated with the clay-rich Electron Mudflow of ∼500 cal year BP, and though rare, non-eruptive collapse of unstable edifice flanks remains as a potential hazard from Mount Rainier.


Mount Rainier Eruptions Holocene Tephra Glass Lahar Hazards 



J Byman and C Harpell assisted JV in the field. D Champion provided advice on paleomagnetic results. R Oscarson expertly maintained the USGS Western Region electron microprobe facility. Whole-rock analyses were performed by J Budahn (INAA) and by the late D Seims (XRF). J Fierstein, M-A Longpré, P Pringle, and K Wallace provided constructive manuscript reviews, and J Stix edited the manuscript for the Bulletin. P Pringle supplied key samples for the Zehfuss et al. (2003) study. This study was supported by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey, Volcano Hazards Program.

Supplementary material

445_2008_245_MOESM1_ESM.doc (652 kb)
ESM Table 1 Electron-microprobe major-oxide analyses of glasses from late-Holocene Mount Rainier tephras (DOC 651 KB)
445_2008_245_MOESM2_ESM.doc (161 kb)
ESM Table 2 Electron-microprobe major-oxide analyses of glasses from CIgW-I and -II ashy sediments between MR-TC and MSW-W tephras at Summerland (DOC 161 KB)
445_2008_245_MOESM3_ESM.doc (111 kb)
ESM Table 3 Electron-microprobe major-oxide analyses of glasses from Kautz Creek ashy sand atop MSH-W tephra (DOC 111 KB)
445_2008_245_MOESM4_ESM.doc (96 kb)
ESM Table 4 Electron-microprobe major-oxide analyses of glasses from ashy sands overlying MSH-W tephra at Paradise, Mount Rainier (DOC 95.5 KB)
445_2008_245_MOESM5_ESM.doc (148 kb)
ESM Table 5 Electron-microprobe major-oxide analyses of glasses from juvenile-appearing grains in the White River confluence lahar (DOC 148 KB)
445_2008_245_MOESM6_ESM.doc (57 kb)
ESM Table 6 Whole-rock chemical compositions of glassy clasts from White River confluence lahar (DOC 57.0 KB)
445_2008_245_MOESM7_ESM.doc (32 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 32.5 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Volcano Hazards TeamUSGSMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Cascades Volcano ObservatoryUSGSVancouverUSA

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