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Mount St. Helens: A 30-year legacy of volcanism

January 1, 2012

The spectacular eruption of Mount St. Helens on 18 May 1980 electrified scientists and the public. Photodocumentation of the colossal landslide, directed blast, and ensuing eruption column—which reached as high as 25 kilometers in altitude and lasted for nearly 9 hours—made news worldwide. Reconnaissance of the devastation spurred efforts to understand the power and awe of those moments (Figure 1). The eruption remains a seminal historical event—studying it and its aftermath revolutionized the way scientists approach the field of volcanology. Not only was the eruption spectacular, but also it occurred in daytime, at an accessible volcano, in a country with the resources to transform disaster into scientific opportunity, amid a transformation in digital technology. Lives lost and the impact of the eruption on people and infrastructure downstream and downwind made it imperative for scientists to investigate events and work with communities to lessen losses from future eruptions.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2010
Title Mount St. Helens: A 30-year legacy of volcanism
DOI 10.1029/2010EO190001
Authors James W. Vallance, Cynthia A. Gardner, William E. Scott, Richard M. Iverson, Thomas C. Pierson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union
Series Number
Index ID 70041349
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center