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Mount St. Helens 40th Anniversary — Science of Volcanology

Forty years ago, on May 18th, 1980, Mount St. Helens produced the largest observed eruption in the coterminus United States. This eruption had profound impacts on human life and the science of volcanology, as well as on hazard preparedness, communication, and forecasting.

Events & Resources

The 1980 Eruption

Science of Volcanology

Hazard Communication

A volcanologist that works at a volcano observatory has a unique job to monitor what their volcanoes are doing, understand what the data they are collecting means, and then communicate that information to a variety of groups including civil protection or emergency management agencies (that are in charge of keeping people safe), the aviation community, and interested public. How do they do all of those things?


Content will be available soon!

Monitoring Then and Now

Interview with Chris Newhall

The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens occurred when volcanologists had early monitoring tools and little experience with large explosive eruptions. The 40 years following the eruption has brought tremendous strides forward in the science, the technology, and the collective global experience of the field. Volcanologist Chris Newhall talks about what hindsight offers, looking back to the lead up of the eruption.

Interview with Dave Ramsey

Geospatial techniques help us to study the surface of volcanoes and the land around them, including understanding the risk to people and property when it comes to volcanic activity. This was an important way of trying to understand what was happening as Mount St. Helens was leading towards the 1980 eruption, and to understand what happened that day. USGS Geologist Dave Ramsey discusses what this looked like in 1980 and how this has improved over the past 40 years.

David W. Ramsey, Geologist, USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory.

New Technologies

Interview with Diana Roman

Technology advancements in volcano monitoring techniques have been immense over the past 40 years, since the Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption. Volcanologist Diana Roman takes us through some of the big advancements in seismology, geophysics, and petrology, that help us monitor volcanoes in real time, from our kitchen tables.

Diana Roman, Earth and Planets Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science.