Photograph taken on October 1, 2004 of renewed volcanic activity within the crater formed by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Recent activity, concentrated on the south side of the volcanic dome formed in the 1980s, includes uplift of a new dome from beneath the crater glacier and formation of vents by glacier melting and explosive eruptions of steam and ash. Credit: USGS
Elevation differences in the crater were found between two airborne LIDAR surveys conducted in September, 2003 and October 4, 2003. The image is a computer-generated representation of the October 4 topography. The superimposed colors indicate areas of change: areas where elevation has lowered between 0.5 to 30 meters (blue); areas where elevation has increased between 1.5 to 40 m, 40 m to 80 m, and 80 m to 120 m are green, yellow, and orange, respectively. Credit: USGS and NASA
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NASA scientists studying Mount St. Helens are using high-tech Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology to analyze changes in the surface elevation of the crater, which began deforming in late September 2004.
With data derived from airborne LIDAR, scientists can accurately map, often in exquisite detail, the dimensions of the uplift and create better models to forecast volcanic hazards. LIDAR shows, in the two weeks before Oct. 4, the new uplift grew to the height of a 35-story building (110 meters or 360 feet) and the area of 29 football fields (130,000 square meters).
"This is the first time USGS and NASA have teamed to use LIDAR to measure volcano deformation," said USGS scientist Ralph Haugerud. He noted LIDAR technology enables researchers to compare with greater accuracy than ever before the topography before and after volcanic events. "The resulting pictures of topographic change can reveal information found in no other kind of data set," added David Harding, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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