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Volcanic activity is causing the earth to rise in Oregon, scientists have found.
Though whether such uplift is a sign of an imminent eruption remains uncertain.
As early as the summer of 1996, a 230-square-mile (600-square-kilometer) patch of ground in Oregon began to rise. The area lies just west of the South Sister Volcano, which with the North and Middle Sisters form the Three Sisters volcanoes, the most prominent peaks in the central Oregon stretch of the Cascade Mountains.
"The most important implication of our research is that the ground appears to still be uplifting," said researcher Susan Riddick, a geodesist at the University of Oregon. "Previous researchers believed that the ground uplift, a result of the input of magma deep in the Earth's crust, had stopped at around 2006. We found that the ground is still uplifting as of late 2010 and may still be uplifting, but at a slow rate."
By analyzing precisely how the landscape was changing, the researchers suggest the magma pocket behind this uplift has a volume of 1.76-billion-to-2.47-billion cubic feet (50-million-to-70-million cubic meters), enough to fill 20,000-to-28,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.
If the researchers are correct, " if an eruption were to take place, it would produce a small cinder cone, then the eruption would be localized within the Three Sisters wilderness area and would not pose a great hazard to the public in neighboring towns," Riddick said. "However, this can change if more magma accumulates at depth, which is why continual monitoring of this area is crucial."