Mt St Helens is not acting up

volcano taryn.JPG

The British tabloid Express is warning readers of eruption activity at Mount St. Helens in southwestern Washington. Given the recent end of a U.S. government shutdown, it may not surprise some if new information about the volcano was only now able to be shared by “non-essential” federal scientists finally heading back to work. However, the claims in these articles are entirely based on a 2006 docu-series on natural disasters mentioned in the articles, and completely misrepresent current activity at Mount St. Helens.

The article, published January 27, claims that “earlier this week, it was revealed lava domes were rising at five metres [sixteen feet] a day.” This was true when the docu-series aired, thirteen years ago. Mount St. Helens, which had a major eruption in 1980 that created a huge crater, did experience another period of eruptive activity from 2004-2008. During that time, thick lava oozed into the crater and built up a large dome, in the slow process of rebuilding the peak. However, the volcano has not experienced any threatening activity since then.

Federal volcanologists, based out of the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, extensively monitor Mount St. Helens for any changes in activity. They track earthquakes, ground deformation, and volcanic gases at Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes in the Cascade Range. The observatory posts weekly updates on the status of all Cascade volcanoes – and did so throughout the shutdown – and is currently reporting “normal background levels of activity” for all volcanoes in Washington and Oregon. When in doubt, trust the experts, not the Express.

Engage Science