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Volcanoes

Summer 2015

In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens

In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens

Richard Waitt
WSU Press, 2014

Like the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, the personal stories of campers, loggers, airline pilots, Forest Service workers, and geologists came pouring out before, during, and after the cataclysm. One of those geologists, Richard Waitt, gathered anecdotes and recollections of the volcanic eruption over the course of three decades, now compiled in this tome.

Waitt blends his own scientific expertise as a researcher who had been on the mountain since its early rumblings with hundreds of eyewitness … » More …

Spring 2014

A true story fraught with peril

As disaster-obsessed scientists go, geologists must be near the top of the list. They deal with time scales spanning billions of years, so a set of catastrophes occurring 10 million years ago is like yesterday. Something in the last century comes close to being, well, now. 

And they see catastrophe all over the place.

Take the roadcut near the Old Moscow Road. It’s a modest pile of crumbling rock, but John Wolff and Rick Conrey can see in its surrounding rock a thick blanket of hot lava inundating southeast Washington.

“It covers an area that goes from here to Spokane to The Dalles, buried at … » More …

Winter 2010

A New Land

John Bishop was late getting to Mount St. Helens.

He was only 16 years old when it blew in 1980, and it would be another decade before he began crawling around the mountain as part of his doctoral studies.

“I was worried I missed all the action—‘Ten years, it’s all been studied,’” he recalls.

It turns out the dust, pumice, and other ejecta were only beginning to settle, and the mountain would continue to rumble, spit, and recover. In 1994, he found himself running from a mudflow, then watched as it moved fridge-sized boulders and shook the earth beneath his feet. Arriving at WSU Vancouver … » More …

Fall 2009

Puff Volcanic Ash Tracking Model

Alaska map-Mt. Redoubt area

Click on an initial eruption height below to watch a predictive ash dispersion animation based on current atmospheric conditions.

The Puff model is a volcanic ash tracking model developed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It has been supported by University of Alaska Fairbanks and its Geophysical Institute, the Alaska Volcano Observatory, and the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center. Click here to go directly to the UAF Puff Web site where you can track ash for other Pacific Rim volcanoes including Washington’s Mount St. Helens.

Also on this site you can find ash tracking 3D simulations using … » More …

Fall 2009

Safer skies

When Alaska’s Mount Redoubt volcano rumbled to life this past spring, images of the plume of ash rising from it probably revived terrifying memories among 240 people who survived its last eruption in 1989.

They’d been passengers on KLM flight 867, a Boeing 747 bound for Anchorage. Ten hours after the volcano erupted, the plane flew through an ordinary-looking cloud. Except it wasn’t a cloud. It was ash from the Redoubt eruption.

The plane lost all communications, radar, electronic cockpit displays—and, within the span of one minute, all four engines. It plunged almost 15,000 feet before the crew managed to restart three of the engines. … » More …

Summer 2002

The Restless Northwest

In The Restless Northwest, former Seattle Times science writer Hill Williams provides a fascinating overview of the geological processes that shaped the Northwest.

An attraction of the region is its varied terrain, from the volcanic Cascade mountain range to the flood-scoured scablands of eastern Washington and the eroded peaks of the northern Rockies. The vast differences, Williams notes, are the results of the collision of the old and the new. The western edge of Idaho was once the edge of ancient North America. As eons passed, a jumble of islands, minicontinents, and sediment piled up against the old continental edge, gradually extending it west to … » More …