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Peregrine News

Earth: Fire and Ice

Posted by Joseph Anderson

Fire and Ice

At this very moment below your feet there is a giant spinning ball of iron.  This is the earth’s core. It is 6,378 kilometers below your feet to be exact and almost 2,000 kilometers thick.  The metal ball is rotating at a faster speed than our home, the crust.  The outer edges of the metal ball gives way to a super heated, slower, outer layer of iron referred to as the outer core which is 2,200 kilometers.  Above this layer there exists a slower layer where liquid hot iron meets molten hot rock.   This, my friends, is “Hell” as geologists sometimes refer to it or the “D” layer, which is where the next layer of the earth, the mantle, begins. The stew of liquid metal and molten rock in the mantle creates such intense heat at such extreme pressure that pulse waves exude upwards towards the outer regions of the Earth, most notably the flimsy crust.  The thickness of the crust only averages around 30 – 65 kilometers and sits in fragmented sheets which slide around on top of the slippier liquid hot magma rock of the upper mantle.   The sheets are called plates and where the plates meet are called fault zones.

One of the largest of all the plates, The Pacific Plate, is being pushed in a twisting North West direction by a pulse wave from deep in the earth.  This powerful pulse hits the Pacific Plate almost right in the middle creating a string of the largest Volcanoes on Earth, the Hawaiian Islands.  As this plate travels and twists to the North West it runs into the North American Plate and while doing so, it takes with it another, smaller plate off the NW coast called the Plate of Juan de Fuca.  As this plate is pushed under the North American plate, it is super heated by the pressure and shoots up a chain of Volcanoes, called the Cascades.  At 49 degrees north and 122 degrees west there is a Cascade Volcano that sits above a jagged spine of a superimposed range of peaks created by these two meeting plates called the North Cascades. This volcano is Mt. Baker.

Mt Baker is not just a mound of overflowing earth surrounded by a motley band of twisted and tormented mountains.  From November to May a jet stream centers itself over the region dowsing Mt Baker and the surrounding hills with a constant spray of snow funneled in from some of the great storm making centers of the Pacific.  Mt Baker gets so much snow that it contains almost more snow and ice than rock.  With almost a half cubic mile of ice, it sports more ice than the other Cascade peaks combined (leaving out Mt Rainier).  The Mt Baker ski hill holds the world record for the most snow ever recorded, 95 feet of snow fell in the 1998/99 season.

So, what does this all mean to you?  This means that Mt Baker and the the Greater North Cascades is one of the greatest Mountain playgrounds on earth.