Oregon State University

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

Research at 11,000 Feet

Mount Hood reflected in Mirror Lake, Oregon (public domain photo)

"There's a surprising amount not known about the Cascades volcanoes." -Adam Kent

Geologists refer to Mount Hood as a boring volcano.

"And it's not just because the town of Boring, Oregon sits right next to it," Adam Kent jokes.

The volcano last erupted more than 200 years ago, and historically, when Mount Hood erupts, it's not a spectacular explosion like Mount St. Helens in 1980. Instead of exploding, magma tends to ooze out the top of the peak, like toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube, Adam explains.

Adam is a professor and researcher in Oregon State's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. He has been studying Mount Hood and other Oregon volcanoes for more than 10 years.

He enjoys studying Oregon's highest peak because previously, not much was known about the timeline between magma formation and the mountain's historic volcano eruptions.

Now, Adam knows it would take 60 days of magma mixing – hot magma rising from deep within the Earth's crust mixing with cooler, almost-solid magma – to cause Mount Hood to erupt.

Adam notes Mount Hood is also extremely convenient for research.

"One time we were able to take the ski lift up to collect samples, and that's pretty handy," he says.

While with his team in the popular recreation area on Mount Hood's south side, Adam says he runs into many interested visitors. He enjoys interacting with the public and answering their questions while carrying out his research.

"The most common question I get is, 'Is this thing going to blow up?' I say, 'Yes, almost certainly at some point in the future, but I don't think you need to worry about it today."


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