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  Wednesday, September 18, 2019
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Mount St. Helens vented a new column of steam Sunday
Mount St. Helens vented a new column of steam Sunday, a lazy plume that rose out of the crater of the snow-dusted volcano. The billow of steam rose from an area where a large upwelling or bulge of rock has been growing on the dome-shaped formation of rock in the crater. The plume rose several hundred feet above the 8,364-foot volcano, and light wind slowly blew it toward the south and southeast. The venting reminded scientists of the volcano's activity 20 years ago, when it built the dome following its catastrophic 1980 eruption. "It's a view very, very reminiscent of the years in the 1980s during dome-building and a few years after when the system was hot and water was being heated and vapor was rising and steam clouds were forming," said Willie Scott, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, informs ABC News. According to CNN, a billow of dark steam rose at dawn from an area of the crater where a large upwelling of rock has been growing rapidly. The plume rose several hundred feet above the 8,364-foot volcano, and light wind slowly blew it toward the south and southeast. Scientists did not immediately determine whether the steam cloud contained any volcanic ash, said an information officer at the joint information center in Vancouver, Washington, about 50 miles south of the mountain. The steam emission followed an increase in earthquake activity over the previous two days, with quakes of magnitude 2.4 occurring every two minutes until Sunday, when the vibrations were more frequent but weakened to magnitude 1 or less. Seismic activity on Saturday was equal to or higher than levels during the October 5 eruption that sent a thick gray cloud thousands of feet into the air and dusted some areas northeast of the volcano with gritty, abrasive ash. Geologists do not anticipate anything similar to the May 18, 1980, blast that killed 57 people, blew 1,300 feet off the top of the peak and covered much of the inland Pacific Northwest with ash. A portion of the crater floor jerked another 10 to 30 feet higher than the day before, raising the area between the pre-existing lava dome and the south wall of the crater more than 250 feet in a week. Scientists continue to believe a slug of gas-charged molten rock is pushing into the crater floor like a piston, and a ramped-up level of earthquakes late Friday afternoon suggested it may again be pounding its way to the surface. Scientists are eagerly watching to see whether the magma oozes out calmly or explodes in a blizzard of ash. "For us, this is one of the most stimulating times in our lives," said John Pallister, research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver. Scientists meeting at the CVO have "vigorously" debated the depth and potential explosivity of the magma, he said. Scientists haven't determined whether the magma is within a few hundred yards or a half-mile of the surface. Washington state seismologist Tony Qamar said late Friday afternoon that earthquakes had increased to the level of magnitude apparent just before the hourlong eruption of steam and ash Tuesday, publishes Columbian.
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