Latest research in magma activity has uncovered a disturbing fact. Mount St. Helens is on the move, and could blow up again in the nearby future.
After the tragedy of May, 1980, where 57 people lost their lives after the volcano erupted, scientists doubled their effort to understand what is happening beneath the mount.
A new paper that encompasses the latest research in the volcano’s internal structure has been presented this Tuesday before the Geological Society of America. In a united effort, that gathered scientists from the University of New Mexico, Texas-El Paso and Washington, scientists have discovered some additional facts about the sleeping giant.
It seems that deep inside its towering summit, Mount St. Helens hosts two magma chambers. These chambers are located at a depth of approximately 8300 feet. The two chambers are very different in term of measurement. Research has uncovered that there is a small chamber and a big one. The small chamber is located at approximately 12 kilometers beneath the surface, while the larger one is situated at 12 to 40 kilometers.
The researchers also discovered that the two chambers are interconnected. Moreover, the larger chamber acts like a reservoir for the smaller one, feeding it with molten lava, from time to time. Also, the large chamber doesn’t only fuel the smaller one. It seems that Mount Adams also draws lava from the large pool chamber.
As the film of the tragedy unveils, during that fatidic day in 1980, the Vulcan eruption was due to large buildup of magma inside the smaller chamber. Because of the high pressured gases emanating from the chamber, the Mount exploded and filled the surrounding area with hot and molten lava.
The fact that Mount St. Helens is on the move is also prompted by recent increases in seismic activity in the area. With the help of a new project entitled iMUSH (imaging magma under St. Helens), geologists were able to map the volcano and further understand how it works. The project employs a network of over 2500 interconnected seismographs, used to detect any slight chance in seismic activity.
With the use of the iMUSH project, scientists are able to get a good look at what goes inside Mount St. Helen. Research into this area could help them devise an early warning device, capable of indicating if the Mount will explode or not, so that tragedies such as the one from the 80s can be avoided.