Several mystery mongering sites report newz about natural events by means of exploiting fear of imminent catastrophic disasters. I wonder how they can sleep at night being so scared of the regular workings of nature they see as so ominous. Today, it’s Mount Saint Helens as the subject to incite panic among the few who take their amateur science commentary to heart. The stratovolcano in the Cascades range is sitting there doing it’s thing, slowly by surely, serving as a conduit for earth’s interior heat to get to the surface. Volcanoes are complicated things, this one is tricky too. The eruption periods of the volcanoes in this zone exhibit thousand of years of activity followed by thousands of years of total quiet. It takes a long time to recharge the very deep magma chambers and pipes that feed vents on the surface. While that is going on, scientists record the tiny earthquakes, small changes to surface elevations indicating uplift or subsidence, and chemical and physical changes of gasses and groundwater, among other metrics. Mt St Helens’ last major eruption began in 1980 with a big eruption that built up over 3 months. It quieted down after 1991 though still not dormant. 36 years seems like a long time to a person but in geologic time, it’s a blip.
St. Helens rumbled with a cluster of about 120 small earthquakes beginning in late November. The quakes were too small to feel but give seismologists and volcanologists information about how magma is moving back into the volcano. This is normal. It’s the typical life cycle of this volcano that exists in geologic time, not fairly judged by human lifespan. The current swarm was similar to other swarms in 2013 and 2014 that also got some a bit rattled. The hot melted rock generated by the adjacent subduction zone offshore takes a long time to move and often cools in place to the point where it stops moving. Eventually, the pressure will build up enough to cause additional signals at the surface. Volcanoes like this give ample warning to scientists watching them that they are about to spew bigly. The scientists from the US Geological Survey who monitor the nation’s volcanoes and seismic activity noted that there are no signs of an eruption from these quakes.
The magmatic system is likely imparting its own stresses on the crust around and above it, as the system slowly recharges. The stresses drive fluids through cracks, producing the small quakes. Subtle evidence of recharge has been observed since 2008 and can continue for many years. It is a sign that Mount St. Helens remains an active volcano.
But that kind of reassurance doesn’t get clicks to your ad-infested blog! Here are three of the worst repeat offenders that too many people share as real news. Check out their headlines which are unsupported by the facts and expert opinion.
Most people aren’t well versed enough in science to know that these sites are not providing high-quality information and making some unfounded suggestions. All people get from these are frightened that an eruption is imminent. If your friends in the northwest are panicky, tell them to consult the experts, not the pretenders, for important and reliable status updates. They probably should be more worried about the major earthquakes that come without any warning. Those things can really kill you. Be prepared, not scared.