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The onset of winter storms, especially in the past week, has generated a lot of noise on seismic instrumentation in the Cascades.
Although seismic activity at most volcanoes remains at background levels, the onset of these storms has induced notable minor seismic activity at Mount Rainier. A number of repetitive, very-small-magnitude quakes, commonly observed at Rainier once winter storms appear, began a couple of weeks ago and continue.
Ongoing research attributes these quakes to slip along the bases of the volcano's glaciers, not to volcanic activity.
USGS Volcanoes 🌋 @USGSVolcanoes Jan 3 M3.9 #earthquake 12 km NE of #MountStHelens occurred at 12:36AM. @PNSN1 has located 15 aftershocks so far. Quake is tectonic - no sign that it's related to volcanic activity.
Seismologists said they are confident the earthquake was a tectonic event and not related to magma activity within the volcano itself, but the location and strength of the quake were atypical.
"We have had a lot of small, tiny earthquakes in this zone. What we haven't had is an earthquake that size, a 3.9 in that area," said Bill Steele with PNSN.
UW seismologists say they log about 17 earthquakes a month on average near Mount St Helens. In the past month, they have tracked more than 80.