Mount St. Helens Rising?

May 18, 1980 – a postcard spring morning. Getting ready for work and listening to relentless chatter of birds, I hurried so I could take the long way to work and enjoy a few extra minutes outside. Just before 8:30 I closed the patio door and sensed something out of place. It took a few seconds to register – it was silent, completely and utterly quite, not a chirp or flutter. It was as if the birds had vanished. A few hours later I heard Mount St. Helens had erupted at 8;32 am.

I can’t say I heard the “boom” or felt tremors from the largest volcanic eruption in American history. Scores of local residents reported hearing the shock wave despite a distance of over 500 Km. All I know for a fact is that bird activity came to a stand still just before eruption.

Fifty seven people perished,  the largest land slide in recorded history buried rivers, roads and train tracks to a depth of 600 feet. When all was said and done – St. Helens lost 1,300 feet in elevation, and devastated an area of 200 square miles. Ash rose 12 miles upwards, darkening skies and causing street lights to come on 300 miles away in Spokane Washington.

Last week the Cascades Volcanic Observatory released reports of St. Helens stirring, specifically indications of magma re-pressurization. Increased uplift and seismic activity remind us it will happen again. The information bulletin wasn’t a warning of immediate danger – an eruption isn’t expected anytime soon.

On clear days we can see Mt. Baker in Washington State, sometimes puffs of smoke rise from the ice covered peak. Mt. Rainier hasn’t erupted for 500 years and is considered as active as Baker or St. Helens. The “ring of fire” surrounding the Pacific Ocean basin accounts for most of the world’s seismic activity, boasting 452 volcanoes and 75% of Earth’s volcanic eruptions.

Photo – Cascades Volcanic Observatory – St. Helens eruption

Impossible to predict or prevent all we can do is prepare. Waiting until the birds fall silent doesn’t make a lot of sense.


10 thoughts on “Mount St. Helens Rising?

  1. I once witnessed a moment like that, when the birds went quiet. It was during a 90% sun eclipse. When that happens, you know that there is something big going on and you wonder what the birds are thinking. “Holy crap”, perhaps.

    • Holy crap indeed! 🙂 I always listen to the birds. When they went silent during the eclipse was it glaringly obvious as in it registered immediately, or did it take a while to comprehend?

      • I was in a park, waiting for the eclipse and remembered being stunned at the crescent shaped shadows of leaves. Then it dawned on me that the birds were having a WTF moment. It only took a few minutes for them to go quiet. Then once the eclipse passed, they resumed slowly. Almost like a respectful silence for a passing hearse.

  2. No (active) volcanoes down here that I’m aware of.
    BTW got up this morning before the Sparrow Fart, (again) cup of tea in hand…..and … cover.
    Clear skies are predicted for tomorrow and my daughter says there will still be a chance to see the meteors ( she’s better at researching and interpreting stuff than me. I can’t fathom if it’s bum or breakfast time on occasion – and I still type with my index fingers)
    So, we’ll give it one more shot…

  3. We should pay more attention to nature. They pick up infrasound which is released during seismic activity, and it affects the fear centers of their brain. We saw this before the Indian ocean tsunami when all wild animals ran for higher ground way before the waves were seen. We saw this just before the China earthquake, when tens of thousands of frogs appeared on the streets.

  4. I should also mention that not only does Infrasound result from earthquakes and volcanoes, but also from severe weather, lee waves, avalanches, bolides (meteors and meteorites), calving of icebergs, auroras, and lightening. Oh, and from lions and tigers roar. It’s been measured.

    • I’ve never felt a big cat’s roar but have been front and center for a few aurora shows – unless you’ve witnessed one it’s incredibly difficult to put their energy into words. Infrasound makes sense 🙂

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