It reminds Malone of the debate that raged in the days before Mount St. Helens blew its top on May 18, 1980, devastating more than 150 square miles of forest land around the volcano in southwestern Washington state, spewing ash all the way to Idaho, causing more than $1 billion in damage and killing 57 people.
The ash plumes, red alerts and evacuations caused by the Kilauea volcano’s eruption are stirring up wonder and worry in Hawaii, but they’re also stirring up memories on the 38th anniversary of Mount St. Helens’ big blast in Washington state.
St. Helens’ eruption of May 18, 1980, ranks as the deadliest volcanic event in U.S. history. Fifty-seven people were killed, and hundreds of square miles of forest were destroyed. Ash rose 16 miles into the sky and was carried by the wind as far east as Montana.
I was one of the journalists who got caught up in the eruption’s aftermath, as an assistant city editor for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. Even hundreds of miles away, the cloud of ash turned the afternoon to night. A thin layer of pumice coated the entire city, gumming up traffic and forcing a lot of us to don face masks when we stepped outside.
An underwater seismic network pioneered by the University of Washington and other institutions is revealing how thousands of tiny shocks can herald huge eruptions.
Results from the Ocean Observatories Initiative’s Cabled Array, published today by the journal Science and Geophysical Research Letters, focus on the buildup of seismic activity in advance of a 2015 eruption at Axial Seamount, the most active submarine volcano in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The release of the results was timed to coincide with this week’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
“Instruments used by Ocean Observatories Initiative scientists are giving us new opportunities to understand the inner workings of this volcano, and of the mechanisms that trigger volcanic eruptions in many environments,” Rick Murray, director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences, said in a news release. “The information will help us predict the behavior of active volcanoes around the globe.”