SEATTLE -- It may not amount to much, like so many times before, but seismologists are paying close attention to a recent swarm of earthquakes on Mount Rainier.
Data from the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network show at least seven earthquakes in the last two weeks around the mountain.
One of the strongest was last Friday, when a 3.4 magnitude quake struck in the afternoon near Ashford. Earlier that day, a 2.9 magnitude quake shook beneath Mount Rainier.
Thousands of tiny quakes preceed the erruption of Mt. St. Helens seven years ago as magma was being pushed upward from deep below. As they were then, scientists say these quakes are also shallow, but not necessarily a warning sign of anything immediate.
"It helps seeing these types of events over, in my case, decades," said University of Washington seismologist Steve Malone.
Seismologists are also watching Eastern Washington, where there have been at least four earthquakes in the last few days around a small area on the Columbia River just north of Richland.
Coincidentally, a 3.4 magnitude quake struck that area the same day as the Ashford quake near Mount Rainier. However, scientists say the two swarms are not connected.
"We just have to pay attention," said Malone. "Just keep watching it."
More info on the earthquakes can be found here on the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network website: http://www.pnsn.org/req2/