On Saturday morning, the skies over the Puget Sound area in Washington state erupted in color during a dramatic sunrise featuring the magnificent Mt. Rainier. As the sun rose behind the Cascades, Mt. Rainier’s tall stature created a dark stripe that seemed to emanate from the volcano amid the brilliant colors of the sunrise. It gave the impression of ash coming from the volcano, but it was actually just the mountain’s shadow.
The phenomenon is quite rare and can only be observed in the late October through January time frame for those south of Seattle, closer to where the mountain looms. The sun rises far enough south on the horizon in late autumn to align right behind Mt. Rainier. As the sun rises behind the mountain, its tall stature creates a lingering shadow. When there are clouds at just the right altitude, they make an easel for the shadow to be visible.
This is not the first time this year that Mt. Rainier has attempted to deceive people. In September, a lenticular cloud hovering just over the summit gave the mountain the appearance it was venting steam and/or ash. These clouds form when winds blow over and around rough terrain.
Mt. Rainier is a dormant volcano and has not erupted in about 1,000 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. However, its neighbor to the south, Mt. St. Helens, erupted with great fury just 42 years ago in 1980.
The unique natural phenomenon that occurred during the sunrise, which made it seem like the volcano was venting steam and ash, was captured in stunning photos and videos from around the Tacoma area in Washington. The beauty of the mountain and the surrounding landscape continue to awe and inspire people from all over the world. The Mt. Rainier National Park, which surrounds the mountain, attracts millions of visitors each year, who come to experience the natural beauty of the area and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and skiing.