Chemical signatures provide picture of internal changes leading to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens
New tools for monitoring volcanoes may be developed with help from a study on Mount St. Helens published this week (Oct. 14) in Science Express by an international team of geoscientists, including University of Oregon volcanologist Katharine Cashman.
The study on geochemical precursors to volcanic activity leading to the cataclysmic eruption of the southwestern Washington mountain in 1980 yields new insight about volcano behavior. "Were looking at chemical signatures--chemistry thats related to volatile, or gas, phases in the eruptive cycle," says Cashman, a professor of geological sciences. "Weve learned that the magma that erupted on May 18, 1980, had probably begun degassing for a minimum of five years before the eruption," she explains. "Then, throughout the summer of 1980, what we see is evidence that gas from the deeper magma storage system had been interacting with the magma at a shallower level."
The study provides a detailed picture of magma and gas movement during 1980. The data shows that ascending magma stalled and was stored at a depth of three to four kilometers beneath the surface.
Melody Ward Leslie | EurekAlert!
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