Volcano Lidar reveals Earth's underground 'secrets'

Scientists use light radar, or "lidar," to further investigate volcanoes in Washington State.

VANCOUVER, Wash. --  Inside the Cascades Volcano Observatory, geologist Jim Vallance examines the now complete lidar image of Glacier Peak, considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Washington State.

Lidar, or LIDAR, stands for Light Detection and Ranging. You can think of it like radar that uses light instead of radio waves. It provides incredibly detailed views of the geology under the ground. 

“The Lidar, in effect, allows us to see through the vegetation that's covering up the secrets that the Earth has," says USGS volcanologist John Ewert, who specializes in the hazards that volcanoes pose from ash to devastating lahars.   

Glacier Peak and Mt. Rainier are considered the biggest threats, following Mount St. Helens, because of their previous eruptive behavior and proximity to populated areas. 

But the work of mapping the state's volcanoes is not finished. A Lidar of Mt. Baker has been done, but the extensive processing of the data into a usable image is not yet finished. A Lidar of Mt Adams will be done soon. 

Copyright 2016 KING


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