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Mount St. Helens, 1980 to now—what’s going on?

April 26, 2013

Mount St. Helens seized the world’s attention in 1980 when the largest historical landslide on Earth and a powerful explosive eruption reshaped the volcano, created its distinctive crater, and dramatically modified the surrounding landscape. An enormous lava dome grew episodically in the crater until 1986, when the volcano became relatively quiet. A new glacier grew in the crater, wrapping around and partly burying the lava dome. From 1987 to 2003, sporadic earthquake swarms and small steam explosions indicated that magma (molten rock) was being replenished deep underground. In 2004, steam-and-ash explosions heralded the start of another eruption. A quieter phase of continuous lava extrusion followed and lasted until 2008, building a new dome and doubling the volume of lava on the crater floor. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Washington’s Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network maintain constant watch for signs of renewed activity at Mount St. Helens and other Cascade volcanoes. Now is an ideal time for both actual and virtual visitors to Mount St. Helens to learn more about dramatic changes taking place on and beneath this active volcano.

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