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Report on St. Helens (United States) — December 1995

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 20, no. 11 (December 1995)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

St. Helens (United States) Seismicity decreases without any explosive activity

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1995. Report on St. Helens (United States). In: Wunderman, R. (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 20:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199512-321050.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


St. Helens

United States

46.2°N, 122.18°W; summit elev. 2549 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


During October-December there were no explosions or gas-and-ash emissions from the lava dome, and no explosion-like seismicity was detected. Surveys of the lava dome indicated that deformation rates have remained at background levels. No increase in deformation of the dome occurred as a consequence of the recent earthquake activity, but the NW side of the dome continued to move downward very slowly as it has since a series of small explosions between 1989 and 1991. Periods of intense rainfall in November generated several lahars from the crater. All of the lahars were detected by the USGS real-time acoustic-flow network and probably flowed into Spirit Lake. Such lahars are common during intense rainfall following the dry summer months.

The number of small-magnitude (M <1) earthquakes beneath the crater decreased slowly from nearly 100/month in September (BGVN 20:09) to ~25/month in December. Seismicity at the end of December was similar to the first 6 months of 1995. The gradual decrease in seismicity, combined with the lack of small explosions related to the September increase, has lowered the concern of scientists monitoring the volcano. Small dome explosions are still possible, but their likelihood is no greater early in 1995.

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.

Information Contacts: Dan Dzurisin, Cascades Volcano Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, 5400 MacArthur Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98661 USA (URL: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/); Steve Malone, Geophysics Program, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195 USA (URL: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/cvo/ home.html).