Mount Saint Helens in review

Image courtesy of USGS/CVO, taken March 8, 2005 from the Cascades Volcano Observatory, Vancouver, WA

For those of you looking for something to relax with and read this weekend, you could wander over to the USGS website and download yourself a copy (for free and legally) of “A Volcano Rekindled: the Renewed Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 2004-2006” (USGS Professional Paper 1750). The report comes in at a mere 872 pages (that’s 697 MB download for the whole report), but you can download the pieces that interest you most as well instead of the whole shebang.

Now, I haven’t read the whole thing, but I have had a chance to read preprints of some of the chapters (in particular Chapters 28, 31, 32 and 36) and while it is a technical paper, it does have a lot of information on the mechanisms of the eruption and our current knowledge of the magmatic system that drives St. Helens. The volcano is now considered to be back asleep, but this dome building episode will likely repeat many times in the future as the edifice rebuilds from 1980.

I’m excited that they finally got the paper out – nice job to the editors: David Sherrod, William Scott and Peter Stauffer. The volume itself was a collaboration between the USGS geologist at CVO and a multitude of geoscientists around the country and the world. Who knew that such a minor eruption of a Cascade volcano could produce so much fascinating research. Just imagine the number of volumes produced if Rainier erupts!


  1. #1 EricJuve
    April 3, 2009

    I’m not a vulcanologist, but isn’t it “when Mt Rainier erupts”?

  2. #2 Erik Klemetti
    April 3, 2009

    Good point, Eric. It isn’t really a question of if Rainier will erupt again, just if it will be next week or next century.

  3. #3 Lance
    April 3, 2009

    Thanks Erik for posting. I have also read pre-released portions of the professional paper (whenever it was posted on the CVO FTP site) and I am glad to see the final version had been released.

    I do disagree with you about Rainier. Rainier is a danger only because it hosts the largest glacier system in North America and remember the largest lahars generated from Rainier was not associated to volcanic acitivity. Although I must say, much of the western face of Rainier – I understand – has been chemically altered, making the danger of a catastrophic landslide similar to MSH in 1980, possible.

    Right now, my money is on Baker, South Sisters and Shasta for the next Cascade Volcano to erupt. And don’t rule out Glacier Peak, which has been known to pack a pretty powerful punch.

  4. #4 David Williams
    April 3, 2009

    MSH is a very impressive mountain. If you have the chance, I highly recommend hiking to the summit. The view down into the crater is amazing, as are the views toward Adams and Rainier. In regard to Rainier, I am pretty sure the biggest lahar, the Osceola, was triggered by a massive eruption 5,600 years ago. That eruption blew off the top 1,000 feet or so of the mountain. Another smaller flow, the Electron, does not appear to be eruption related. It ran about 500-600 years ago.

  5. #5 gg
    April 4, 2009

    Today, an explosive eruption at Redoubt, just after status was downgraded to orange. MSH here we come?

  6. #6 gg
    April 4, 2009

    Interesting to note that the “worst case scenario” of a directed blast at Redoubt, similar to MSH, shows the Drift River Terminal just outside the blast zone. This is from a 1998 hazard assessment report by the AVO.

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    November 21, 2010

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    November 22, 2010

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    December 7, 2010

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