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Scientists Saying Mount St Helens is Recharging – What Does That Mean?

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It’s always fun when you’re scrolling through the news and you see stuff like this. It’s word that scientists are now saying that Mount St. Helens is “recharging”. That sound kinda dangerous when it comes to volcanoes, but what does it really mean?

I made the mistake of actually looking up what it means for a volcano to recharge. ABC News was one that has recently shared what scientists are saying about the rebirth of Mount St. Helens. Here’s the little tidbit that a USGS scientist shared with them that caught my eye.

“Mount St. Helens is at normal background levels of activity,” Liz Westby, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey–Cascades Volcano Observatory, told ABC News. “But a bit out of the ordinary are several small magnitude earthquake swarms in March to May 2016, November 2016 and April 16 to May 5, 2017. During the April 16 to May 5, 2017, swarm, we detected well over 100 earthquakes, all below a magnitude 1.3.”

It’s the “normal, but” part that got my attention. If you look up the eruptive history of Mount St. Helens, you’ll see that it used to be around 700 years between eruptions. But, since 1800 it’s considered to be in a 57-year eruptive period.

If you remember back to just prior to the massive 1980 eruption, scientists were monitoring the volcano, but didn’t necessarily believe that anything major was about to take place. That was true until a 4.2 earthquake struck the region followed by a 5.1 which helped trigger the now-famous eruption.

But, does this recharging (or rebuilding up of magma) mean an eruption is imminent? Scientists in the ABC report said “no”, but admitted there’s no way to really know.

The wild card in all of this would be another major earthquake. We have learned from history that a seismic event near Mount St. Helens can lead to many of us shoveling ash off of our roofs.

For now, we can just watch and wait. And, hope.

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