A Sleeping Volcano is Coming To Life After 800 Years

Mount Edgecumbe
TheAmateurPhotograher/Shutterstock.com

Written by Nixza Gonzalez

Updated: October 12, 2023

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Active volcanos are everywhere, but it’s always a frightening thought. Volcanic explosions aren’t common, and yet a sleeping volcano is coming to life after 800 years. Although rare, even dormant volcanos can show signs of activity. Follow along to learn about Mount Edgecumbe, an inactive volcano showing signs of waking up.

About Mt. Edgecumbe

Mount Edgecumbe is at the southern end of Kruzof Island, Alaska. It’s about 9.9 miles east of the Queen Charlotte Fault. The elevation of this mount is 3,201 feet. Although this large volcano sits close to cities and homes, it hasn’t had a major eruption in over 4000 years. The indigenous Tlingit people lived near the mountain. They called it “L’ux”, which means “to flash” or “blinking”. It’s likely they discovered the mountain while it was smoking or erupting.

Mount Edgecumbe is a unique mountain. The first recorded ascent was in 1805 by Captain Urey Lisianski. The hiking trail is about 6.8 miles long and ends with snow-covered ground and red volcanic ash above the treeline. Hikers can also choose to hike to the crater rim. The trail isn’t barren. Instead, a three-sided cabin sits four miles up the trail. The trail is not as hard as others and is listed as moderate. However, the last three miles to the top are steep and can be muddy. Hikers may also run into bears as they are common in the area.

Although the volcano hasn’t seen a massive eruption in over 4,000 years, a hoax did scare many Sitka, Alaska residents. Oliver “Porky” Bickar, a local prankster, planned this prank for over four years. He lit over 70 old tires in the crater causing dark smoke to rise. This looked like an eruption, however, at the rim of the volcano, the local prankster spray painted “April Fool”. The FAA and the Sitka Police Department were notified beforehand. It is considered one of the ten best Aprils Fools hoaxes of all time.

Although the earthquakes occurred in 2020, magma has been rising every year since 2018 about 3.4 inches per year. While magma may be rising in the volcano, there are no signs it will erupt.

Is Mt. Edgecumbe Coming to Life?

While Mt. Edgecumbe has been inactive for 800 to 900 years, scientists have noted some signs that it could be coming back to life. For example, the mountain experienced a small swarm of earthquakes. Scientists began monitoring the activity and noted deformities at the surface level of the volcano. There was a 10.5 inch change. It’s likely the change is because of rising magma. Scientists discovered this using a new analysis system. Although the earthquakes occurred in 2020, magma has been rising every year since 2018 about 3.4 inches per year. While magma may be rising in the volcano, there are no signs it will erupt.

Signs a Volcano May Erupt

Volcanos are interesting, they don’t always erupt over thousands of years. Instead, sometimes volcanos erupt quickly. The quickest eruption took less than an hour. So, how do we know when a volcano may erupt? The most common signs a volcano might erupt are magma rising to the surface, swelling and cracking of the ground surface, and an increase in intense and frequent earthquakes. Usually, volcanos show signs of erupting, so it’s unlikely Mt. Edgecumbe is close to erupting.

Mount St. Helens Landslide

Mount St. Helens has erupted multiple times. It remains active and the worst eruption was in 1980.

Active Volcanoes Around the World

While volcanic eruptions are rare, there are still active volcanoes all around the world. For example, there are approximately 1,350 likely active volcanoes worldwide. An active volcano near Seattle and Portland is Mount St. Helens. This volcano is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc with over 160 other active volcanoes. Mount St. Helens has erupted multiple times. It remains active and the worst eruption was in 1980. During this eruption, 57 people were killed. Not only were people killed, but about 250 homes, 47 bridges, 185 miles of highway, and 15 miles of railways were completely destroyed. The eruption was caused by a strong 5.1 earthquake which resulted in a debris avalanche. It also changed the mountain summit’s height from 9,677 feet to 8,365 feet.

Another active volcano is Mount Merapi, which is an active stratovolcano. It is located in Indonesia which has over 100 active volcanoes. It is very active and frequent eruptions are common. Mount Merapi is so active, it’s common to see smoke coming out of the mountaintop. On October 25, 2010, the volcano erupted killing about 353 people in one month. Another 350,000 fled their homes, which were destroyed by pyroclastic flows and heavy rainfall.

Also in Indonesia, Mount Semeru erupted in 2021. This dangerous eruption killed at least 69 people and left 104 people injured. The oldest record of eruption for this volcano dates back to 1818. Even as recently as 2022, Mount Semeru erupted which led to evacuations because of monsoon rains that collapsed the mountain’s lava dome.

Mount Merapi

Mount Merapi is so active, it’s common to see smoke coming out of the mountaintop.

What U.S. States Have Active Volcanoes?

Redoubt Volcano, Alaska

Redoubt Volcano is one of the most dangerous in Alaska.

Mt. St. Helens is certainly the most famous active volcano in the United States, but were you aware that there are over 190 active volcanoes in the U.S.? The volcanoes are spread out across 11 different states, with one state–New Mexico–up for debate, as there is conflicting information on whether or not it has active volcanoes. Below is a list of the states with active volcanoes, along with how many are in each state.

  • Alaska – 141
  • Utah – 19
  • California – 7
  • Hawaii – 6
  • Washington – 5
  • Oregon – 5
  • Idaho – 4
  • Arizona – 3
  • Nevada – 1
  • Wyoming – 1
  • Colorado – 1

The volcanoes in Alaska, amazingly, almost all of the 140 volcanoes are concentrated along the Aleutian Range and the Aleutian Islands. The most common threats from these volcanoes are ash clouds and ashfall. One of the most dangerous volcanoes in Alaska is Redoubt Volcano, a 9,000-foot high stratovolcano that has erupted five times since 1900.


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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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