2004-11-06

 

USGS Update 2004-Nov-06 10:20

Current Update

Growth of the new lava dome inside the crater of Mount St. Helens continues. As long as this eruption is in progress, episodic changes in the level of activity can occur over days, weeks, or even months. Increase in the intensity of eruption could occur suddenly or with very little warning and may include explosive events that produce hazardous conditions within several miles of the volcano. Small lahars (volcanic debris flows) could suddenly descend the Toutle River valley if triggered by heavy rain or by interaction of hot rocks with snow or glacier ice. These lahars pose a negligible hazard below the Sediment Retention Structure (SRS) but could pose a hazard to people along the river channel upstream of the SRS. At this time of year, it is not unusual for rivers draining the volcano to contain high concentrations of sediment that turn the water murky.

Although considered less likely at this time, the current eruptive activity could evolve into a more explosive phase that affects areas farther from the volcano and sends significant ash thousands of feet above the crater where it could be a hazard to aircraft and to downwind communities.

Wind forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), coupled with eruption models, show that ash clouds that rise above the crater rim today would drift eastward.

Visibility is excellent and likely will remain so throughout the day. A steam plume is rising passively and drifting over the crater rim. The plume occasionally contains minor ash, which falls out in the crater and on the flank of the volcano, darkening the snow.

Seismicity remains at a low level compared to that observed early in this unrest. The current seismicity is consistent with a continuing, slow rise of magma driving uplift of the crater floor and feeding a surface extrusion of lava. The overall low rates of seismicity and gas emission suggest that the lava reaching the surface is gas poor, thereby reducing the probability of highly explosive eruptions in the near term.

Yesterday field crews accomplished several missions. A seismometer and a GPS unit were installed on the 1980-86 lava dome to replace instruments destroyed in the explosion of October 1. The seismometer will improve the accuracy of earthquake locations and the GPS unit will track any deformation of the old dome. An array of two microphones was also deployed to aid in detecting explosions. Two benchmarks on and beyond the outer flanks of the volcano were reoccupied by GPS instruments as part of an effort to assess whether or not pressure changes have occurred in the deep parts (3 to 6 miles) of the magmatic system. Crews also carried out maintenance on several field sites. Day- and night-time photographs of the crater were taken from a site near Johnston Ridge Observatory. These will be compared with photographs taken from this same site during the past 6 weeks to assess changes on both the old and new lava domes and the crater walls.





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Standard USGS Update

Growth of the new lava dome inside the crater of Mount St. Helens continues, accompanied by low rates of seismicity, low emissions of steam and volcanic gases, and minor production of ash. During such eruptions, episodic changes in the level of activity can occur over days to months. The eruption could also intensify suddenly or with little warning and produce explosions that cause hazardous conditions within several miles of the crater and farther downwind. Small lahars could suddenly descend the Toutle River if triggered by heavy rain or by interaction of hot rocks with snow and ice. These lahars pose a negligible hazard below the Sediment Retention Structure (SRS) but could pose a hazard along the river channel upstream.

Potential ash hazards to aviation: Under current eruptive conditions, small, short-lived explosions may produce ash clouds that exceed 30,000 feet in altitude. Ash from such events can travel 100 miles or more downwind.

The U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Washington continue to monitor the situation closely and will issue additional updates and changes in alert level as warranted.

My intent with this page is to provide a clearning house for links to the current activity at Mt.St.Helens. Please send me any links of interest that you may come across, whether for permanent sites or for news reports. I'm not going to be able to do this all alone and all help will be appreciated.

(Disclaimer— I have no association with anyone or any organization, and speak only for myself. Links and quotes are provided for information only.)

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