May 7, 2014
Not Quite Ready For A Second Eruption
About five years ago, I climbed Mount St. Helens. Though the hike up was not the most difficult climb, it also was not easy. Beyond the bouldering, Mount St. Helens is covered in scree, which is basically the left over rock debris from its major eruption in 1980. Oh, and it is incredibly frustrating to climb in because for each step I would slide back two. I had quite an experience climbing the volcano that erupted months before I was born. It was difficult and scary while simultaneously sublime. And as I climbed it, I kept thinking about its potential to erupt again.
Mount St. Helens is, after all, still an active stratovolcano. redOrbit recently reported on the volcano’s potential for eruption. The magma levels are currently rising at the famed Mount St. Helens; however, the Cascades Volcano Observatory, the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, and the US Geological Survey all confirm that there is no sign the volcano will erupt anytime soon. The US Geological Survey “explained that Mount St. Helens is ‘showing signs of long-term uplift and earthquake activity,’ but confirmed that there were ‘no signs of impending eruption.’ They went on to explain that analysis from the CVO and PNSN monitoring revealed the magma reservoir beneath the volcano ‘has been slowly re-pressurizing since 2008.’”
So, basically what this means is that the active volcano is doing its active volcano thing, but that it will likely not erupt any time soon. In fact, Seth Moran, a seismologist with the Cascades Volcano Observatory, said, “This is giving long-term (data) that it’s getting ready to erupt again, but it could be decades before it does something again. It’s getting ready, but it’s not there… It may stay perched at ready stage for a long time before it starts to erupt. The reassuring thing is: when it’s really ready to erupt, it gives lots and lots of signs.”
We all have heard the stories or read the articles or just seen the documentaries about the devastation that the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption caused. According to the redOrbit article, 57 people died, over one billion dollars in property damage occurred, and the surrounding ecology was decimated. It was a shocking, violent natural disaster. There is folklore about it. And many still have memories about the impact, so the fact that the volcano is gurgling again likely will make many people edgy. However, scientists have technology to really be able to watch for natural disasters a bit more, especially those with seismic connections.
I live in a state where natural disaster is an everyday discussion. Every year we prep for tornadoes, thunderstorms, winds that exceed normal understanding, and now even earthquakes. And frankly with almost all of these, the scientists can give pretty accurate preparation time for such things. Sure, sometimes Mother Nature drops a surprise whammy on us, but most of these can definitely be detected. It gives me great peace to know that the above three groups confirm that though she is brewing, Mount St. Helens is not ready to explode again just yet. Moreover, the fact that these groups also think that Mount St. Helens will give “lots and lots of signs” before another eruption calms me even more.
As I climbed this natural behemoth five years ago, I felt a connection to its past. After all, Mount St. Helens did erupt mere months before I was born, so I kind of feel a kindred spirit in it anyway. As we peaked over the summit to the caldera, I felt like I was looking into the mouth of the beast. I expected to see smoke puff and lava bubble at any second. I knew it was highly unlikely, but still when I was standing on Nature that had so aggressively made her mark, I could not help but wonder when she would next speak up. Five years later, I find out that it will likely be many more years beyond this moment. And that is okay.
I leave you with this YouTube video of the 1980 eruption:
Image Credit: Thinkstock