Report on St. Helens (United States) — 27 September-3 October 2006
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 27 September-3 October 2006
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2006. Report on St. Helens (United States). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 27 September-3 October 2006. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
46.2°N, 122.18°W; summit elev. 2549 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
There were minor rockfalls off of the new dome at St. Helens during 27 September-3 October as lava emerged slowly from the vent onto the S crater floor. Seismicity and rates of deformation were low. The new dome is now nearly as high as Shoestring notch on the SE crater wall.
The alert-level system for all volcanoes monitored by the USGS was changed on 1 October from a numerical system to a descriptive system. In the new system, alert-level Normal indicates background conditions and is equivalent to aviation color-code Green. The previous alert levels of Volcanic Unrest (Alert Level 1), Volcano Advisory (Alert Level 2) and Volcano Alert (Alert Level 3) have changed to "Advisory," "Watch," and "Warning," respectively. There is a subtle change to the aviation color-code definitions in that there is no longer an ash-plume threshold given for either Orange or Red. For Mount St. Helens, the current hazard status is "Volcano alert level: Watch; Aviation color code ORANGE." The alert-level "Watch" is used for two different situations: (1) heightened or escalating unrest indicating a higher potential that an eruption is likely, but still not certain; or (2) an eruption that poses only limited hazard. Definition 2 fits the current lava-dome eruption at Mount St. Helens well.
Geologic Background. Prior to 1980, Mount St. Helens formed a conical, youthful volcano sometimes known as the Fuji-san of America. During the 1980 eruption the upper 400 m of the summit was removed by slope failure, leaving a 2 x 3.5 km horseshoe-shaped crater now partially filled by a lava dome. Mount St. Helens was formed during nine eruptive periods beginning about 40-50,000 years ago and has been the most active volcano in the Cascade Range during the Holocene. Prior to 2200 years ago, tephra, lava domes, and pyroclastic flows were erupted, forming the older St. Helens edifice, but few lava flows extended beyond the base of the volcano. The modern edifice was constructed during the last 2200 years, when the volcano produced basaltic as well as andesitic and dacitic products from summit and flank vents. Historical eruptions in the 19th century originated from the Goat Rocks area on the north flank, and were witnessed by early settlers.