The glacier sits on top of the last volcano to explode on Canadian soil: Mount Meager, northwest of Whistler, B.C. But the fact that it erupted just over 2,400 years ago does not mean it’s past its potential to blow again. That’s just the blink of an eye in geological terms.
The combination of the volcano and its shrinking glacier has drawn Williams-Jones. He is a volcanologist from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., and brought a team to, as he said, “read the signals, the body language” of the mountain in hopes of knowing when the next eruption will happen.
Global warming, said Williams-Jones, is increasing the chances of a landslide or an eruption.
The team is researching not only the gases and the expansion of the fumaroles, it is also measuring the speed of the glacier’s retreat and the potential for a landslide, which could trigger an eruption.
All of those factors combine to create instability and uncertainty about when disaster might strike.
Williams-Jones is certain Mount Meager will erupt again. He just cannot say when.
“It is like a great, sleeping giant and in some ways, it is more dangerous as things can build up,” he said.