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United States Science

Mount St. Helens Alert Status Increased 600

Posted by michael
from the experience-is-the-best-teacher dept.
DarkHand writes "Mount St. Helens has become even more unstable in the last few hours. The U.S. Geological Surveys Cascades Volcano Observatory has increased the volcanic alert around the volcano to level 2 and released a press release: 'Over night, seismic activity at Mount St. Helens has accelerated significantly, which increases our level of concern that current unrest could culminate in an eruption. We are increasing the alert level to the second of three levels [...]. Earthquakes are occurring at about four per minute. The largest events are approaching Magnitude 2.5 and they are becoming more frequent. All are still at shallow levels in and below the lava dome that grew in the crater between 1980 and 1986. This suggests that the ongoing intense earthquake activity has weakened the dome, increasing the likelihood of explosions or perhaps the extrusion of lava from the dome.' The most recent readings at the SEP seismograph stationed on the lava dome itself are totally saturated. The ground is now literally constantly rumbling."
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Mount St. Helens Alert Status Increased

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:34AM (#10393552)
    "Get outta there, it's gonna blow!"
    • Too bad no one has a defuse kit... :(
    • Someone be sure to tell all those Californians who came and built $3,000,000 houses perched on sticks halfway up the side of the mountain.
      • And we want to tell these people why???

        It's the same reason I don't feel for anyone in the expensive beach houses in Florida. You have a thin stip of land jutting out into an ocean constantly active with hurricanes. Just like the rich people in California building stilt houses on the side of mountians in earthquake zones.

        People, this is why YOUR insurance premiums are so high! Rich people feel the need to build expensive houses in very unstable locations.
    • It occurs to me now that the city of Portland Oregon (metro population 1.1 million) was menaced by the last big eruption of Mt. St. Helen's in May 1980.
      In that event, the entire north side of the mountain blew up in a explosion with force equal to many hydrogen bombs. Luckly the area devastated was wilderness forest. Only about 15 people lived in the several hundred square miles primarily affected.
      However on the west side of the mountain, there was a nuclear power plant on the Columbia river abou
      • by mranchovy (595176) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @11:05AM (#10395448)
        Now it looks like a million-seat football stadium

        ...with a cool halftime show.
      • by payslee (123537) <payslee@yahoo . c om> on Thursday September 30, 2004 @11:17AM (#10395582)
        The river was closed for shipping the last time around. They had to dredge many billions of tons of ash and debris from the explosion and mud flows before the river was navigable again. No rioting or starvation last time, and presumably none the next time. I'll grant that it wasn't radioactive mud, but the fish still left in this watershed are tough SOBs after what they've been through for the last 150 years.


        I actually rather like the new and improved version of St. Helens. Perfect geometry is boring. I highly recommend, once the mountain settles down, the long hike up to the rim of the crater. You come to it with a suddeness I can't describe, after hours of trudging through snow fields. All of a sudden you see the terrible beauty that destruction can bring, with, on a clear day, Mount Rainier and Mount Adams looking impossibly close by.


        Even if there are no volcanoes in your backyard, mountains are great, symmetrical or smashed. Go visit some.

      • by mikerich (120257) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @11:18AM (#10395585)
        However on the west side of the mountain, there was a nuclear power plant on the Columbia river about 50 miles (80 km) away. If the volcano had blown out through the west side of the mountain instead of the north side, there was the serious possiblility that the shock wave would have ruptured the reactor coolant tanks and damaged the control and safety systems. In a worst case, this could have led to the release of radioactive material into the last 50 miles of the Columbia river. The river would have been closed for shipping. Which means that the port of Portland would have been closed, stopping shipment of massive amounts of grain to Asia from the Pacific Northwest. It would have also caused the extinction of the fisheries, such as salmon and steelhead trout in the Columbia.

        It's unlikely that even the most massive eruption from Mt. St. Helens could have threatened the plant. The incredible first lateral blast only travelled 25km and IIRC the pyroclastic flows only extended about 20km. Ashfall would not have been a problem for the plant, and the quakes associated with vulcanism are (Hollywood aside) fairly small.

        In the event, they had a pretty good idea that Mount St. Helens was going to erupt through its side. The area that bulged was called Goat's Roack and was actually the result of an earlier eruption through the side of the cone.

        What no one had predicted was that the whole side of the mountain would slide off [usgs.gov]. Instantly a huge section of the magma below the mountain depressurised - like a champagne cork blowing off. And that did the damage.

        What we have now is young magma pushing up under the mountain. We'll probably see a series of small eruptions as the dome is built, extended and then blown apart. We could have centuries of this sort of activity ahead of us.

        The eruption was too bad because Mt. St. Helens was a perfect cone before the eruption. It looked like Mt. Fuji in Japan. Now it looks like a million-seat football stadium: a big hole with a circular ridge around half of it.

        You're not thinking long-term - the cone of Mt. St. Helens was only a few tens of thousands of years old, it will rebuild itself in the next few millennia. In the meantime, sit back and watch the mountain heal itself.

        Best wishes,
        Mike.

      • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @12:43PM (#10396735)
        First of all...the Trojan nuclear reactor was not built on a volcano, it was built near one. In fact, it's about 75 miles away (an estimate, I don't have a map in front of me). As someone else noted, the shockwave was only significant for a radius of about 25 km. The pyroclastic flow went north (the wrong way) for about 20 km, following the low ground. Trojan is on the other side of the Columbia River in the middle of a big plain. Debris from the eruption is simply not a threat. Additionally, the containment building is designed to take a direct hit from a commercial airliner without threatening the integrity of the core or the heat exchanger. That probably really means something like a 1% chance of breach, but it still shows you that it's well built.

        Additionally, the Trojan reactor was not shut down due to the proximity of a fault and fear of earthquake damage, but due to an aging coolant system that would have cost $billions to rebuild. Admittedly it is an older design and there are safer options now, but my point is Mt. St. Helens does not threaten us with a nuclear disaster.

        The spent fuel rods are still there because some crazy people are convinced that they are safer sitting in a pool a couple hundred yards from the Columbia River than converted into a ceramic, encased in steel and concrete, and buried under Yucca mountain.

        I wish I could go hike up there, but other people tell me that would be stupid and now illegal, so I guess I'll have to settle for looking out the window.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:34AM (#10393559)
    .. if only to shout "Leonard Bernstein" at this point.
    • Re:REM fans unite (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrgrey (319015)
      Lyrics... Though I did like the way David Spade and Chris Farley sang it better...

      That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane -
      Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn -
      world serves its own needs, don't misserve your own needs. Feed it up a knock,
      speed, grunt no, strength no. Ladder structure clatter with fear of height,
      down height. Wire in a fire, represent the seven games in a government for
      hire and a combat site. Left her, wasn't coming in a
  • by methangel (191461) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:35AM (#10393572)
    All of these hurricanes, tornadoes earthquakes, floods, and now volcano eruptions...when do the plagues and locusts start happening?
  • Dante II (Score:4, Funny)

    by ancice (817863) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:35AM (#10393573)
    Do people still remember the show Dante's Peak? It had a real cool legged robot which went into the volcano to collect samples. Wonder if these cool and useful machines are still being used or is everything remote sensing now?
    • Re:Dante II (Score:3, Informative)

      Wonder if these cool and useful machines are still being used or is everything remote sensing now?

      I can't remember if they actually ever used those (I really don't think so, I think the show used them because they are "cool"), but since right now they are interested mainly in seismic and gas, not rock samples and such, it's the remote sensors...

    • Re:Dante II (Score:5, Funny)

      by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:21AM (#10394140) Homepage
      Darby's Seventeenth Rule of Scientific Discussion

      When discussing vulcanology, one should avoid using as one's primary reference a movie in which Pierce Brosnan successfully drives a pickup truck over several meters of red-hot lava.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:35AM (#10393574)
    Memo to self: Don't live anywhere near an active volcano.
    • by dykofone (787059) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:44AM (#10393689) Homepage
      From the article: GPS instrument on the lava dome...suggest that the site moved a few inches northward Monday and Tuesday.

      Looks like you also have to be sure you don't live in the path of an active volcano. At that rate Mount St. Helens could reach Canada in a few thousand years!

      • Re:memo to self (Score:3, Informative)

        by GeckoX (259575)
        I know you're just trying to be funny, however this is just a GPS instrument that has moved on the lava dome itself. Mount St. Helens did not move a few inches north in a couple of days. Nor will it tomorrow, or likely in the next thousand years.

    • Re:memo to self (Score:3, Interesting)

      by at_18 (224304)
      You mean like the 300,000+ people who live on mount Vesuvio [wikipedia.org]?
  • How severe? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sdo1 (213835) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:36AM (#10393580) Journal
    What I don't get out of any of the reports I've read is how severe of an eruption is possible here. Could it be massive like the big one that blew the side off of the mountain or are we in for a little puff (or as little as little can be on a volcanic scale)? Or do they just not know?

    -S
    • Re:How severe? (Score:5, Informative)

      by southpolesammy (150094) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:46AM (#10393706) Journal
      Seismologists are expecting anywhere from nothing at all (not uncommon following an earthquake swarm, happens at Kilaeua from time to time), to a moderate event.

      By comparison, the 1980 blast was a catastrophic event. A medium strength earthquake caused the entire north face of the mountain to crumble in a massive rockslide, which also uncorked the pressure on the magma underneath, resulting in a huge lateral explosion through the rock slide. Imagine a wall of rocks coming at you at 300mph. It's doubtful that something like that will happen again in our lifetimes.
    • Re:How severe? (Score:5, Informative)

      by crawling_chaos (23007) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:47AM (#10393719) Homepage
      OK, I haven't done any geology in over two decades, so take this with a grain salt, but my understanding is that one of the reasons that the "big one" was so big was that St. Helens had not erupted for centuries and the top of the lava tube was blocked like a giant zit. When enough pressure finally built up to blow the cap off, it threw crap everywhere. That would indicate that the currently forecasted eruption is unlikely to be as large, although it could still be a significant event.
      • Re:How severe? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Webmoth (75878) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:50AM (#10394528) Homepage
        The pressure didn't "blow the cap off" so to speak, but more precisely, the pressure caused the north face of the mountain to bulge, which became unstable and failed catastrophicaly. This released the pressure, allowing the trapped gases to forcibly eject volcanic matter both laterally and vertically, giving us the devastation of the Toutle River valley and choking the Cowlitz and Columbia Rivers, and the memorable ash cloud rising some eighteen miles into the sky.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:47AM (#10393730)

      There will be a big white flag coming out of the crater reading "BOOM!" any minute now...

    • by medscaper (238068) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:56AM (#10393849) Homepage
      They had some comments on the local news this morning about its severity. (I live in Vancouver - just a short drive from St. Helens.) It looks like the only thing they're predicting is a very small eruption, possible steam escapes. Nothing at all like the last one.

      The only problem they expect is the possibility of dispruping flights at PDX or some of the local airports.

      Contrary to the last eruption, when 57 people died, no one lives up around the volcano anymore. So, it's not like anything nearly as severe is likely.

      So, even though activity is through the roof, they don't expect more than a small eruption. Even last time, here in Vancouver, we didn't get much activity at all. All the ash, darkness and horrid weather was thrown to the east of the Cascades, near Yakima and Central Washington. The rivers were flooded and clogged with debris, but other than the immediate vicinity, no one was hurt.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:37AM (#10393586)
    KABOOM!
  • by The Queen (56621) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:38AM (#10393609) Homepage
    ...but I've always thought of volcanos as Mother Earth's acne.

    As I was watching Katie Couric interview one of the scientists this morning, I just kept thinking that these guys are all waiting for this big head to pop so they can collect measurements on the pus.

    Sorry, kinda icky, but these are my thoughts. Mod down if you have a weak stomach.
  • by PriceIke (751512) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:39AM (#10393624)

    I'm sick of all these damn hurricanes, honey. Where else can we live?

    I want to get as far away from this place as possible. How about Washington?

    Works for me, let's go!

  • by noselasd (594905) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:42AM (#10393650)
    Hmm. I was hoping to see a live volcano eruption here [fs.fed.us], but it seems
    not to be broadcasting now. Anyone knows why/what's happening ?
  • Live volcano cam (Score:3, Informative)

    by cpaluc (559921) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:42AM (#10393660)
    http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volcanocams/msh/ It looks pretty grim. (Is it dark @ 6:30am @ MSH?)
    • Yes (Score:3, Informative)

      by Webmoth (75878)
      Being I live in SW Washington, probably 20 miles from MSH, I can attest that at 6:30am there was a pretty heavy cloud cover that made things mighty dark.

      If the picture is gray, that means it's foggy.
  • by Cade144 (553696) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:43AM (#10393664) Homepage
    I was there about ten years ago, with a college field trip. Being from the Midwest, I haddn't seen any real volcanos until then. I was looking forward to seeing the terrific devistation and other formations left by the 1980 eruptions.
    While driving up the windy mountin road to get to the park, our van turned a bend, and suddenly I saw before me a swath of devistation so utterly complete that I knew only some tremendous force could have removed all the trees and other signs of life.
    I asked the "vetrans" of the group if we had reached the blast zone already. They responded: "Nope, that's just a clearcut. The blast zone now has much more wildlife."
    Ah well. I was just there to look at the rocks anyway.
    • I visted in the summer of 2000. I thought that after 20 years there really wouldn't be much to see from the eruption. I was very wrong. There are still whole valleys with little tree growth and only the decaying remains of the forest that was around the volcano. There is a whole lake that was created from the melted snow on volcano when it blew. It was really cool seeing a piece of pumice (sp?) bigger than me setting by the road.
    • by ipfwadm (12995) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @12:40PM (#10396689) Homepage
      Uhhh... are you kidding?

      I was there last summer, 23 years since the 1980 eruption, and the power with which that thing erupted is still evident all over the area.

      For instance:

      • A picture [adirondack-park.net] from high on the flank of the mountain looking back down one of the lava flows from the 1980 eruption. Notice the green patch on the hill to the left, which was missed by the lava flow.
      • Looking at the same spot [adirondack-park.net], this time from below. You can really see the effects of that hill here -- it diverted the lava, and everything behind it is green, while everything else was destroyed.
      • A panorama from the rim of the mountain [adirondack-park.net], looking down into the crater. This should give you an idea of how big a crater the eruption left. The top of the mountain was simply blown away. Even while we were there, every few minutes we could here rock tumbling down into the crater, some of them huge boulders. The sides of the caldera still aren't stable, 23 years after the fact.
      • Spirit Lake [adirondack-park.net]. All that gray stuff you see are trees. Thousands of them. They were all killed in 1980 eruption, and are now just floating on the lake. It's called the "floating forest" of Spirit Lake.
      • This is a hillside about TEN MILES from the blast site [adirondack-park.net]. See how the trees were just blown right over? And no, this one isn't a clearcut. According to this page [usgs.gov], most of the trees within a 600 square kilometer area were blown over by the blast.
      Another testament to the destructive power of a volcano is Crater Lake [adirondack-park.net] in Oregon (formerly Mt. Mazama), which blew its top 7500 years ago. The eruption, which is estimated to have been more than 40 times more powerful than Mt. St. Helens (link here [nps.gov]) left a crater 5 miles wide, which has since filled up with water. There is still a desert-like pumice plain just north of Crater Lake, noticeable 7,500 years after the fact. Even Yellowstone National Park is itself a former volcano. It's just hard to tell when you're there because the caldera is absolutely enormous (a good portion of the park is itself within the caldera rim), and it happened 600,000 years or so ago. Just google for 'yellowstone eruption'.
  • ifd you live in tacoma, mt. rainier is the one you worry about

    pdf map of lava flow hazard from mt. rainier to tacoma [usgs.gov]
  • by J-bob2 (219807) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:44AM (#10393688)
    I couldn't help but wonder if the two are related? Is Mt. St. Helens related to the the quake in California on Tuesday? They're in that same general fault line aren't they?

    Can anyone who knows more about Earth Science help me out here?

    • by bcarl314 (804900) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:16AM (#10394076)
      Not sure if those two are related, but there was an interesting article in Scientific American a few months back that was showing a link between a large earthquack in Alaska and increased geyser eruptions in yellowstone.

      Seems an earthquake 1000s of miles away "jarred the pipes" powering the geysers in yellowstone.

      I don't suppose its out of the realm of possibility that St. Helens is related to the earthquake in CA.
    • by Unkle (586324) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:29AM (#10394252)
      Actually, from what I remember from Geology in college, no, they are not on the same fault line. The Cascacdes (which Mt. St. Helens is a part of) are caused by the subduction fault of the Juan de Fuca plate going under the North American plate. California is home to the San Andreas fault, a transverse fault where the Pacific plate is slipping laterally past the North American plate. Also, these earthquakes are probably caused by movement of Magma within the volcano's magma chamber.

      Anyone who has had more than 2 semesters of studying these things, feel free to correct me.

    • by mooman (9434) * on Thursday September 30, 2004 @01:15PM (#10397112) Homepage
      No, the California quake was action along the San Andreas fault line, occuring about 4.9 miles deep. The current seismicity at Mount St. Helens is very shallow, approximately 1/2 to 1 mile deep, and is confined almost directly to the cone itself, indicating it is probably triggered by local gas or magma action, not by any deeper seismic causes.

      The California earthquake was actually measureable throughout the entire Cascade chain, and I did some computations of the event propagation for the heck of it :

      Epicenter: 10:15:24 PDT
      San Fran: 10:16:05 (41 sec delay)
      LAS station (CA/OR border): 10:17:00 (96 sec delay)
      Three Sisters (OR mountain): 10:17:40 (136 sec delay)
      Mount Hood (OR/WA border): 10:17:45 (141 sec delay)
      Mount St. Helens: Too much local action to detect
      Mount Rainier (SE of Seattle): 10:18:20 (176 sec delay)
      Stiped Peak (Olympic Pen.): 10:18:32 (188 sec delay)
      Rockport, WA (30 mi from Canada): 10:18:40 (196 sec delay)

      So, picking two points as the earthquake epicenter and Mount Rainer based on being the ones I found very accurate Lat/Lon coordinates for, the shockwave traveled 740 miles in 176 seconds for an overall speed around 15136 MPH (approx Mach 20, depending on altitude)

      The detected signals definitely diminished the further north you traveled, but were still clearly identifiable even up to the Canadian border. But those signals were orders of magnitude less than Mt. St. Helens is generating on its own right now.

      I'm no geologist, but I live 38.4 miles from Mount St. Helens so I've recently taken up a keen interest in current events there. ;)
  • Some people (Score:4, Interesting)

    by deathcloset (626704) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:45AM (#10393698) Journal
    I was three years old when St. Helens blew in 1980 (anyone feel old yet?).

    Our family lived in Northern Idaho, and my father likes to recount how the hardware store was full of people buying masks and resperators and whatnot. He tells of how the supermarket was jam-packed with people stockpiling for the apocalypse.

    He was getting a little nervous, but on his drive home he saw our neighbor (we lived out in the country), a farmer named Mr.Coon, just trolling about on his tractor under the bloody sun and darkened sky;doing his daily work, acting like it was just another day.

    My father was then able to relax a bit.
    • I was there... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pedestrian crossing (802349) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @11:08AM (#10395475) Homepage Journal

      I was going to college in Moscow, Idaho when it blew, and believe me, it was impressive, even that far away from the eruption.

      Throughout the day a tolkeinesque black cloud grew larger and larger on the western horizon, until it streched all of the way north to south. As it came over it became darker than night, the sky was just black. Then is started to "snow" volcanic ash. Instead of coming down in flakes, it came down as a fine powder, but looking out the window, it looked like snow against the street lights. This was about 3:00 in the afternoon.

      It didn't get light again before nightfall. The next morning, it was as if it had snowed, except it was very finely powdered ash, and it didn't go away like snow, it just compacted and then blew around as dust when the wind blew.

      It was a very memorable experience, more impressive even than a total solar eclipse (but that's another story)...

  • by Solder Fumes (797270) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:47AM (#10393717)
    By an interesting coincidence, I was born near Mt. St. Helens during the first eruption. Yes...as I was delivered from the womb, the city was covered with ash and filled with the sounds of weeping and gnashing of teeth *cough* I mean, sweeping and washing of streets.

    Maybe with this next eruption, instead of merely being born, I'll actually get a life.
  • by thrill12 (711899) * on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:47AM (#10393718) Journal
    ...our scientists are no longer able to monitor and analyze any vulcanic activity online.
    Folks: you're on your own.
  • by F7F7NoYes (740722) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:47AM (#10393725)
    Have we positively ruled out terrorism as a cause of this seismic activity at this point?
    • Not yet. In fact, certain congressional Democrats are "very concerned" that putting out these volcano warnings are just Republican scare-tactics. John Kerry (D-Mass) issued a statement this morning saying "Mt. St. Helens is angry, because the earth is angry at President Bush's failed environmental policies .."

  • by invisik (227250) * on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:47AM (#10393732) Homepage
    Having never been there myself, it would be cool to see before and after shots of the area in the event of an eruption. Any one out there listening?

    -m
  • /. pwns you (Score:3, Funny)

    by Southpaw018 (793465) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:48AM (#10393742) Journal
    Google news summary:
    News results for mount st. helens - View today's top stories
    Mount St. Helens Alert Status Increased - Slashdot - 9 minutes ago
    Experts Predict Mount St. Helens Eruption - ABC News - 10 minutes ago

    Yes, that's right. /. beat ABC news to the story. Take that!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:49AM (#10393751)
    Bush declares the volcano part of the "Axis of Lava", declares "War on Volcanos" and sends bombers to the area to eliminate the threat.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:55AM (#10393829)
    Subduction zones (like those off the west coast of America) and volcanoes (such as St. Helens) are a big part of the long-term carbon cycle of the planet [ucla.edu]. Left to its own, life and chemical processes on this planet would convert all the atmospheric carbon into calcium carbonate that would be trapped in rock on the bottom of the ocean. Subduction zones and volcanoes reprocess this rock into CO2.

    Once the Earth's crust cools enough, it will lock up and stop the cycle and CO2 will inexorable drop in concentration. I can't remember when this is predicted to happen, but I believe it is scheduled to occur before the Sun becomes a red giant. Of course, I'm sure our descendants (assuming we have them) will invent their own C02 extract factories to keep the Earth nicely carbonated when the time comes.
  • by RCulpepper (99864) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:55AM (#10393834)
    Google 'Yellowstone volcano.' In one of the two or three times I favored my intro to geology class with my presence, my professor explained that much of Yellowstone National Park is the caldera of a giant volcano, according to him the largest on earth, hence the geysers and sulfurous springs. If it were to erupt again -- fortunately it does so rarely, about once every 600k years -- it would cover most of the Western US in ash and if it did so without warning, would kill millions of people.
  • by amichalo (132545) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @08:57AM (#10393855)
    When up on Mt. Rainier (over looks Seattle) we were told by guides that Mt. Rainier was a much larger active volcano with far more devistating potential than St. Helens because of both it's size and proximity to Seattle.

    Does the activity at St. Helens make Mt. Rainier and more or less likely to also erupt?
    • by redbaron7 (577469) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:14AM (#10394040) Homepage

      Although both Mt Rainier, Mt St Helens, and all the other dormant and volcanoes in Washington and Oregon are due to the same subduction zone; an eruption at Mt St Helens will not influence Rainier in any way.

      The USGS is currently predicting a high likelihood of Rainier experiencing a small eruption in the next 50 years. This will melt Rainier's icecap and produce lahar flows (heavy, fast mud flows - these will take out bridges and buildings). The outskirts of Seattle are built on the deposits of old lahars from Rainier...

      Early this year, a warning system (a bit like the tsunami system in the Pacific) has been put in place between Rainier and Seattle. This should give warning of lahars as they start. This could give enough warning to get people out of valley bottoms, etc - but how much of the populace knows what a lahar is and what the danger is???

      Incidentally, a couple of days ago, I plotted the ongoing Mt St Helens earthquake swarm on some earthquake hazard maps and put the results here [mp2kmag.com].

      Richard (yes I was a seismologist 10 years ago)
    • I recall a couple of photos (in Nat'l Geographic?) from some folks who were on Rainier when St. Helens blew. The 1st photo showed a person in the foreground, with the initial burst out of St. Helens in the background. The 2nd photo showed the foreground person being knocked on her ass, while the background showed St. Helen's burst pluming upward rapidly.

      Like any earthquake in the area, St. Helens can affect Rainier. The question is: Is Rainier stable enough to shrug these off? In 1980, the answer to
  • by Purifier (782794) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:02AM (#10393918) Homepage
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/publications/msh/comparisons. html "Whoever wins, we lose..." ;)
  • Lahars (Score:5, Interesting)

    by esoterus (66707) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `suretose'> on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:03AM (#10393925) Homepage
    One of the more reassuring things about St Helens blowing is that it has already done so. It has a nice crater to keep things fairly contained and no glaciers. Mt Rainier is another story, however. It is also a volcano, has the most permanent glaciers on it of any mountain in the continental US and if it blows, the true danger is what happens to those glaciers at eruption. It's known as a lahar.

    I read something similar to this once: To get an idea of a lahar, imagine a 30 ft wall of mud, boiling in temperature with the consistency of wet cement traveling at speeds up to 60 mph or so. If you go driving through the river valleys of Washington State (Carbon Rv, Puyallup Rv) that are fed by the Rainier glaciers, you'll see Lahar evacuation route signs everywhere. Not only that, but I believe recent evacuation simulations have been abysmal. Scary stuff.

    Ahh, may have found the article [tribnet.com] that I read.

  • by earthforce_1 (454968) <earthforce_1 @ y a h o o . c om> on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:06AM (#10393953) Journal
    http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/Products/Warn/WarnScheme s.html
  • by boskone (234014) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:10AM (#10394000)
    I clearly remember 1980. It was pretty neat and scary. Although it happened on Sunday, so we didn't get that day off of school. I think school was closed for several days afterwards. Some tidbits that you may find boring or interesting...

    Ash was so fine (there was several inches on the street) that it would ruin your engine. So everyone put women's pantyhose over their air cleaners to keep the dirt out. Also the local timber company bought out the auto parts stores of all the extra air cleaners to keep their trucks moving.

    people kept emergency supplies in their car trunks for years after that. probably until 86 or 87

    Also, their were some great slogans on bumper stickers and t-shirts that we'll revive if necessary.

    "Mt St. Helen's lost her ash in 1980, I saved mine."

    Plus the song about harry truman was popular.

    wow, amazing what you can remember...
  • by Conspir8or (458285) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:20AM (#10394128)
    Clearly, Mt. St. Helens is near eruption because it is starved for virgin sacrifices!
  • Volcano news site (Score:4, Informative)

    by BC Guy (657285) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:27AM (#10394219)
    I'm surprised no one has posted it yet, but John Seach's Volcano-Live [volcanolive.com] site has a lot of good and timely volcano info. Go to the breaking news [volcanolive.com] section for continuous bits about St. Helens.

    Seach runs chartered volcano tours and has amassed quite a collection of pics which are up on the site too.

  • by Dugsmyname (451987) <thegenericgeek@@@gmail...com> on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:35AM (#10394323) Homepage
    A friend sent me this link [fs.fed.us] to the Mount St. Helens Volcano Cam, updated every 5 minutes from the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
  • by fizban (58094) <fizban@umich.edu> on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:56AM (#10394620) Homepage
    "At least we'll die doing what we love...inhaling molten rock"
    -Homer
  • by flogger (524072) <non@nonegiven> on Thursday September 30, 2004 @10:07AM (#10394804) Journal
    You can watch the CAM here. [fs.fed.us] There is a nice view of the volcano.

  • by Watcher (15643) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @10:14AM (#10394911)
    The most recent readings at the SEP seismograph stationed on the lava dome itself are totally saturated.
    Somebody Else's Problem seismograph? What does it do, make the volcano disappear if it becomes too inconvenient?
  • by Baldrson (78598) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @10:39AM (#10395346) Homepage Journal
    There is a live motion web cam in nearby Stevenson, WA [skamania.org] -- which was covered in a fairly thick layer of ash during the last eruption. It's low framerate but at least you can see updates at most every few seconds during bad periods. (Not including if it gets /.'ed of course.)

    PS: We installed a Qorvus Meshcam(tm) [qorvus.com] on the top of the Skamania County Government building as part of the Stevenson Wifi Project [skamania.org], which was the first municiple public access mesh network to go live in the US.

  • by grgyle (538200) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @11:12AM (#10395505)
    I was ten years old living down in Vancouver, WA back in 1980. We had a pristine view of the mountain from our back yard and would constantly have "eruption barbeques" at the house.

    During one of the many ash-falls that used to regularly dust us, my brother and I ran out one morning to play in the new ash before our parents woke up. There was about 1-2 inches coating everything, like new snow, and it had just rained making all of the ash into an interesting clay-like consistency.

    Kids being kids, my little brother and I ran out to the driveway and started writing our names with our fingers into the ash covering my dad's brand new 1 day old VW Scirroco in the driveway. It started out with "Hi" and "Cool" and progressed to "Van Halen kicks ass" and "KISS rules" and liberal scrawlings of "dork", "shit", "Tony sucks dick", drawings of boobies and penises, you get the idea.

    Well, we got into a hell of a lot of trouble when my dad saw the car when he had to wipe all of the ash off to drive to work. Our trouble later escalated when he discovered that, after going through a car wash to rinse off the rest, everything that we had written on his car was now premanently scratched into the paint and windows of his car, ash being a fine gritty silicate. Our dad's co-workers ribbed him endlessly about his "custom paint job" as it took him several weeks before he could get his car repainted and the windows replaced.

    All told, a few thousand dollar "oops" for us kids ;)

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