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Temperatures in the crater of Mount St. Helens have risen above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (540 Celsius)
Temperatures in the crater of Mount St. Helens have risen above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (540 Celsius) in recent days as lava nears the surface but there is no danger of an imminent eruption, government geologists say. Mount St. Helens, which erupted violently in 1980 and killed 57 people, woke from its slumber nearly three weeks ago with small eruptions spewing steam and ash. Despite the rise in temperatures and the presence of magma-related gases, volcanologists at the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, kept their warning level at the agency's second-highest setting of "heightened activity." They briefly raised their warning alert to the highest level for a few days during heightened activity 10 days ago. Magma from deep below the mountain, located about 100 miles (160 km) south of Seattle, has pushed up the lava dome that formed in the crater after the 1980 eruption by 250 feet (80 metres). "These observations are consistent with new lava having reached the surface of the uplift," the USGS said in a statement on Tuesday. Small earthquakes also continued to rattle the crater every five to 10 minutes, the USGS said, and gas-sensing flights have detected sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide indicating the presence of magma. Scientists describe the recent activity as "dome-building" where new lava oozes or erupts onto the lava dome, increasing its size, informs Reuters. According to ABC News, volcanic rock has flowed to the surface of Mount St. Helens' crater, creating a new lava dome after weeks of seismic activity, a geologist said Tuesday. Scientists had known for days that magma or molten rock was nearing the surface, as a bulge grew on the south side of the existing 1,000-foot lava dome and the increasingly hot rock gave off steam as it met water and ice in the crater. The bulge is now considered a new lava dome, the scientists said. "Now that we have new lava at the surface, we're comfortable saying" that dome-building has resumed at the volcano, U.S. Geological SurveyU.S. Geological Survey geologist Tina Neal said. The bulge had risen at least 330 feet since scientists noticed it Sept. 30. Geologists said there is still a chance of explosive ash eruptions from the 8,364-foot mountain, and the immediate area around the volcano remained closed. Rising temperatures in Mount St. Helens' crater have scientists convinced that molten rock near the surface will erupt soon. They just don't know how soon or how explosive the eruption might be. The surface of a new bulge growing out the south side of the volcano's lava dome is hotter than 400 degrees Fahrenheit, U.S. Geological Survey geologist Willie Scott said Monday, and scientists have competing guesses at what will happen next. Some predict a fast, hot explosion that could destroy the old lava dome and its new bulge, Scott said. Other scientists believe that magma inside the mountain will push a hard rock plug out onto the area of the lava dome that has bulged 330 feet in two and a half weeks. If this happens, lava and rocks will spill out of the dome in a slow, soupy eruption, Scott said. Steam and volcanic gases escaping from Mount St. Helens' crater, combined with the climbing heat at the bulge, have scientists convinced that molten rock is near the surface --- though they don't know how near, Scott said. But John Pallister, another USGS geologist, said Monday that scientists believe the magma is less than half a mile below the surface. Scientists installed a new camera on the northeast flank of the mountain near the crater breach Sunday to get a better view of the bulge, the steam, and --- they hope --- to catch the eruption when it happens, reports the Daily News.
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