Giant Rock Slab Growing in Mount St. Helens

Posted on May 5, 2006

The AP reports that a 300 feet tall slab of rock is pushing itself out of Mount St. Helens at the rate of 4 to 5 feet per day. Larger photographs can be seen on the AP/CNN story page -- scroll down to where it says "Gallery: Rising from the volcano."

Mount St. Helens, located in the Cascades of Washington, has been quietly erupting since a flurry of tiny earthquakes began in late September 2004. Scientists initially mistook the quakes as rainwater seeping into the hot interior of the older lava dome.

But it soon became clear that magma was on the move, confirmed by the emergence of fire-red lava between the old lava dome and the south crater rim a few weeks after the seismic activity began.

The volcano has continued pumping out lava ever since. Eventually, scientists expect the volcano will rebuild its conical peak that was obliterated in the May 18, 1980 eruption that left 57 people dead.

The current growth of the new lava dome has been accompanied by low seismicity rates, low emissions of steam and volcanic gases and minor production of ash, the USGS said.

USGS geologist Tom Pierson told the AP that "given the way things are going now, there's no hint of any sort of catastrophic eruptions." He also told the AP that this could change at any time. You can keep an eye on the situation with the Mount St. Helens VolcanoCam.

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