Scientists are creating a map of the inside of Mount St. Helens using seismic mapping that involves 3,500 sensors and 23 explosions.
Seventy-five geophysicists were on the volcano last weekend preparing for what is basically a huge ultrasound and CAT scan of the volcano’s “internal plumbing,” a press release from Rice University said
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“Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes in the Cascade Range threaten urban centers from Vancouver to Portland, and we’d like to better understand their inner workings in order to better predict when they may erupt and how severe those eruptions are likely to be,” said Rice’s Alan Levander, the lead scientist for the experiment.
Instruments will measure seismic waves generated by the detonation of charges in 23 boreholes that are each about 80 feet deep, Levander said. Most detonations occurred Tuesday and Wednesday, but weren’t expected to be felt by anyone in the surrounding communities.
“Our shots will provide enough seismic energy to develop a clear picture of the mountain’s inner workings, but in most cases not enough to be felt and certainly no more than low-level seismic activity that occurs in the area on a weekly basis,” Levander said in the release.
The sensors that gather the experimental data run on a small battery and it only lasts about two days, so scientists and volunteers had to work quickly. There will be an additional few detonations on July 30 using some of the sensors.
The mapping, which is part of a four-year Imaging Magma Under St. Helens project, is being coordinated by Rice, the University of Washington, the University of Texas at El Paso, and other institutions.
Mt. Saint Helens is known for being the most destructive and deadliest volcano in the U.S. Although it erupted in 2008, it’s the 1980 eruption that earned it that title. The nine-hour eruption destroyed 230 miles of forest.
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