28 years ago, news hit hard that the U.S. Geological Survey had slapped a volcanic hazard designation on Mammoth Lakes and Long Valley. Since then, monitors documented the resurgent dome pushed up 2 1/2 feet by rising magma. But since about the year 2000, the hazard seriously quieted down.
The quiet continues. Dave Hill of USGS has long monitored Long Valley. Today, he told us that things are "really quiet" with only small background earthquakes of magnitude 1,2 and some 3s. Most of this activity is south of the Long Valley caldera. The main job now – to keep a viable record of activity.
Hill said that the monitors almost two miles below the earth offer the quietest and best data on earthquakes. He also confirmed that background quakes continue under Mammoth Mountain. The resurgent dome remains static since the rise in the 80s and 90s.
USGS scientists study activity here and around the world to learn more about volcanic activity. Hill said one thing is clear – fluids from magma do lubricate the faults underground and facilitate earthquakes. "We're getting a better insight," said Hill.
Another thing the scientists know – the federal budget is definitely unstable and not likely to offer enough money for equipment. Dave Hill is more worried about a lack of money and the inability to hire young, good scientists to take over the research.
But Hill is still on the job, and he and others recently visited Mammoth Lakes and the Unified Command members so if activity resumes, the players will all know what to do.