A refreshing Shasta

By Phil Plait | November 11, 2012 7:00 am

The Cascade range of volcanoes is pretty impressive to see from the ground. Stretching from California up to Washington, it includes famous mountains like Saint Helens, Hood, and Rainier. I’ve seen many of these while driving in the area, and they’re even cooler from an airplane.

But I have to say, the view from the International Space Station might be best.

[Click to cascadienate.]

This shot was taken from the ISS on September 20, 2012, and shows the region around Mount Shasta, a 4300 meter peak in northern California. It’s technically dormant – it erupted last in 1786. In geologically recent history it’s erupted every 600 years or so, but that’s not a precise schedule, so geologists keep an eye on it, as they do many of the peaks in the Cascades. As well they should.

To the west of the mountain (to the right in the picture, near the edge) is the much smaller Black Butte. I only point that out because you can see a highway winding around it to the right. That’s I5, a major north-south highway, and a few years back when my family lived in Northern California, I drove it on our way to and back from Oregon. Black Butte was a pretty impressive lava dome, looking exactly what you expect a volcano to look like. And looming in the distance was Shasta, but more standard mountainy looking. That appearance is, of course, quite deceiving.

I love volcanoes, and I’m fascinated by them. I’m hoping to visit some more very soon.. and I’ll have some news about that, I think, in the near future.

Image credit: NASA

Do you like volcano pictures from space too? Here’s a bunch of ’em!

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (24)

Links to this Post

  1. The Bad Astronomer Does Geology | En Tequila Es Verdad | November 12, 2012
  1. Melissa

    Wow, who would’ve thought the ISS would still be in orbit and sending back pictures from 2102? :) Apparently by then we’ve developed time travel, too. …..couldn’t resist.

  2. Trebuchet

    @Melissa: What makes you think it’s not? We’ve grounded the space shuttle, but with a little help from the internet and clear skies, you can still watch the ISS go over your house.

    @BA: Black Butte is not, I’m pretty sure, “a pretty impressive lava dome.” It is in all probability a cinder cone. (/nitpick)

    ETA: Dang, Wikipedia does indeed call it “a cluster of overlapping dacite lava domes.” My bad. I only recently saw one of the same name in Oregon which was a cinder cone.

  3. Canyon42

    Look carefully at the date, Trebuchet, to see Melissa’s point. :^)

    Black Butte is to the west of Shasta? So south is up in this photo?

  4. Greg K.

    @Trebuchet, she was snarking on the 2102 typo. Should be 2012.

  5. DanM

    But will you still be able to watch it go over your house in September of 2102? I suspect not… but I would love to be proved wrong. I’d love even more to be around then to prove MYSELF wrong, but that’s asking a lot…

  6. Marina Stern

    From the west, Shasta looks like a barnacle, because of the secondary cones. From the east, it looks like a classic cone. You can see it from the highway 89 miles away. I commute between Oregon and LA, so I’ve seen Shasta many, many times, and it’s always gorgeous.

  7. VinceRN

    I used to go to summer camp on that volcano.

  8. bad Jim
  9. Wzrd1

    The most impressive volcano around is Yellowstone.
    One thinks one has a grasp of the size of the caldera, then one realizes not, once is there in person.
    And thinks, with a locked up mind, wow…

  10. OtherRob

    I’ve been on that Mount. :-)

  11. MadScientist

    Look to the SE of the snow-capped peaks – there’s a Meerkat staring up!

  12. Ian

    What fascinates me most about images like this is imagining that even 500 years ago, a human living on one side of the mountain might live their entire life without seeing what’s on the other side. They would view the scale of the mountain as insurmountable, yet we can fly straight over and take a picture.

  13. MattTheTubaGuy

    One impressive (dormant) volcano that combines nature and human intervention: Taranaki in New Zealand
    near perfect circle around the mountain due to a national park that can’t be farmed.

  14. Trebuchet

    Dang, I made two mistakes in the same post! Oh well, won’t be the last time.

  15. Kevin M

    Also, I note the well-tended purple Lemurian landing strips to the southwest.

  16. Nick

    As a kid, we drove down from Oregon to California every summer to visit the grandparents. I remember always being fascinated by that lava dome every single time.

  17. When I was a kid we would drive up I-5 to visit my grandparents who lived in Weed and us kid always knew we were close when we went by Black Butte.

  18. JB of Brisbane

    Am I the only one who read Ian #12″s comment and thought of the Donny and Marie Osmond song from 1975? Or am I even more obscure than the average geek?

  19. Mt. Shasta the mountain is way cooler than Mt. Shasta the town. The mountain is airy and wonderful and only has the potential to erupt. The citizens of Mt. Shasta are airy and filled with crystal power woo woo and spiritualism and much other goofballism and tend to spew hot gas rather frequently.

    Very cute guy in the fire department though. Rowr.

  20. I, too, love volcanoes. A slight correction: Mt. Garibaldi, in British Columbia, is the northernmost volcano in the Cascade range.

    For anyone who has an interest in the western volcanoes, the book “Fire Mountains of the West, The Cascade and Mono LakeVolcanoes” is an excellent resource. Technical, yet with a lively writing style that is geared toward the layperson, it is exciting reading. It presents a “biography” of all of the major volcanoes and volcanic areas on the west coast; talks about when they last erupted, and whether or not they are likely to erupt again (answer: Yes! Most of them!).

    Shasta is lovely – but, as you say (for now!) dormant.

    If one wishes to visit an “active” volcano, one needs go no further than Mt. Lassen. About four hours drive from the California State Capitol, Sacramento, (and south of Mt. Shasta) Mt. Lassen last erupted in 1921 and contains the largest active thermal area in the continental United States, after Yellowstone.

    The Bumpass Hell area of Lassen contains boiling lakes, popping mudpots, fumeroles and steam jets blowing out of a cliff. A fascinating place, well worth a visit. A truly fascinating place.

  21. I like the lush greenery growing on the old lava flows in the lower right.

  22. Lauren

    I see this mountain and Mt. Lassen every morning from Redding. It’s breathtakingly beautiful this time of year. My family has a lot of history with this volcano; my kids are the fourth generation to live in its shadow. It would be a very different picture with the storm systems that have moved through here in the past few weeks; the glacier at the top of Mt. Shasta has been blanketed in a good layer of snow. Since Redding is so relatively close to both volcanoes, I wonder sometimes whether one eruption would set the other off (Lassen being considered pretty active with its thermal vents and last eruption less than a century old), since they are part of the same range. Those of us in the valley keep that in mind when we look off to the cinder cones in the distance.


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