The last time Mt.
Helen’s awoke from its slumber was ten years ago this week, when it erupted after 18 years of inactivity.
Now, geologists are using the anniversary of the eruption to caution citizens that the volcano is likely to erupt again, and to highlight the latest installation of eruption warning technology at the volcano’s base.
When the volcano last erupted, it drew many volcano enthusiasts and news media organizations due to its dramatic volleying of ash tens of thousands of feet into the air.
The hubbub continued until the areas surrounding the volcano were closed for safety reasons.
Now that the eruptions have ended, climbers have been allowed to return to their adventures of reaching the volcano’s summit.
Media attention has also slackened considerably.
Nonetheless, the volcano could still pose a threat – according to Travelers Today , during the course of three years, a second lava dome has arisen in the crater of the volcano, and was measured to be about 1,076 feet above the crater floor.
Furthermore, the shape of the lava dome is still changing.
Dan Dzurisin, a USGS geologist, stated , “As it cools, it fractures and settles and falls apart,” further conveying the changing nature of the dome.
There are signs that the magma chamber that fueled the past eruption is recharging, and the USGS is currently focusing on the rate of recharging and whether the magma can compress in the chamber, rather than flowing toward an outlet to the earth’s surface.
The USGS was able to predict Mt.
Helen’s last eruption through by monitoring earthquakes, but the eruption managed to expose some weaknesses in the monitoring mechanisms that were put in place.
USGS seismologist Seth Moran stated , “Three days later there was an explosion that wiped out [the site of the monitor]…that really forced us to get creative about how to get instruments in close.” Since then, scientists have developed a method of dropping a seismometer from a helicopter, making their eruption warning technology more precise.
Moran added , “It looks like Mt.
Helen’s is getting ready to erupt again, and it can happen in the order of years to decades.”