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May 23 2012

New on Rosetta Stones: A Very Prescient Paper

My Mount St. Helens montage continues with Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Current Quiet Interval Will Not Last…” This post explores one of the most fascinating papers I’ve ever read, in which Crandell and Mullineaux predicted that St. Helens wasn’t so much sleeping as having a brief nap. Geologists are awesome.

I also point out that superbly symmetrical volcanoes are fairly screaming, “I’m this pretty because I’m feisty!” If erosion hasn’t had time to attack one, you’d best watch for signs of mischief.

I know commenting at Scientific American can sometimes be a pain in the arse, so feel free to chime in here.

Before the devastating May 18, 1980 eruption, Mount St. Helens was considered to be one of the most beautiful and most frequently-climbed peaks in the Cascade Range. Spirit Lake was a vacation area offering hiking, camping, boating, and fishing. USFS Photograph taken before May 18, 1980, by Jim Nieland, U.S. Forest Service, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Trebuchet

    I have a niece, living in Idaho, who doesn’t like to come to the Puget regions even for a visit because she’s afraid of Mt. Rainier. Perhaps she’s wiser than I thought!

  2. 2
    Cujo359

    For those of us who aren’t geologists, the important thought about the Crandell and Mullineaux paper’s predictions is that when they say “anytime within the next X years”, they mean any time. When discussing things like building codes or disaster planning for a subduction zone quake or what have you, that’s important to keep in mind. It’s not a clock. The sooner you’re done preparing, the sooner you can breathe a little easier.

  3. 3
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Somewhere there is time lapse video of the growth of the lava plug, which is really very cool. Slo-mo eruption.

  4. 4
    Jane

    Thanks for reading my Dad’s paper and publication (Dwight “Rocky” Crandell) and commenting on it. Growing up with a geologist Dad was pretty interesting and super interesting during the Mt. St. Helens era. He also figured out that the entire top of Mount Rainier slid off to form the Osceola Mudflow. He did that back in the 1950s when the current thinking was that the deposits that went all the way to Puget Sound had been laid down by glaciers in the last ice age. If you go to Paradise you’ll see the explanation in the visitor’s center up there. I have the sheet of paper from his field notes the day he came up with the idea and then had to prove it. He called it a “light bulb” moment. And actually drew a tiny light bulb on the page. He was in his 30s at the time. I can’t believe it’s been 32 years since Mt. St. Helens blew her top! That’s cool that you think geologists are awesome LOL

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