Eighteen volcanoes scattered across the United States’ western coast officially pose a “very high threat” to their surrounding communities, according to a newly updated version of the U.S. Geological Survey National Volcanic Threat Assessment.
The Associated Press’ Seth Borenstein notes that a dozen volcanoes rose in threat level since the last assessment was completed in 2005, while 20 dropped. Of the top 18, 11 actually saw their overall threat scores decrease despite remaining at a very high threat level. The new assessment ranks 161 of the nation’s active or potentially active volcanoes based on the predicted damage inflicted by their hypothetical eruption. It does not forecast which volcano will erupt next, National Geographic’s Maya Wei-Haas emphasizes, but rather the “potential severity” of an eruption’s impact.
Mount Kilauea, which bombarded Hawaii’s Big Island with lava bombs, ash and volcanic smog in a series of eruptions that lasted throughout the summer, and Washington’s Mount St. Helens, the infamous site of a 1980 eruption that killed 57 people, topped the updated rankings, while Washington’s Mount Rainier, Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano and California’s Mount Shasta rounded out the top five.