Scientists to Examine Volcano’s Explosive Energy

Scientists to Examine Volcano’s Explosive Energy

Mount Saint Helens erupted in 1980 and led to the deadliest and most destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. After 34 years, scientists are now trying to track the volcano's explosive energy to figure out how Washington's most active volcano works.

Scientists will be using techniques developed by the oil industry to set off explosive charges buried in two dozen 80-fot-deep wells drilled around the mountain. During the stint, researchers will be recording the seismic energy of the explosions on thousands of portable seismometers. These seismometers will be placed by an army of volunteers traveling by car, on foot and on horseback.

This will help researchers understand the details of how molten rock, or magma reach at St. Helens' crater from the area where tectonic plates collide and the magma is created. The area is 60 miles beneath the surface.

"We've been looking at what's beneath the volcano through very fuzzy glasses. This still won't give us anything like 20/20 vision, but it should make things quite a bit clearer", said Seth Moran, a seismicity expert with the U. S. Geological Survey's Cascade Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington.

National Science Foundation is the biggest funding institure for the $3 million project, headed by Kenneth Creager, a University of Washington professor of earth and space sciences.

A research team from Rice University, headed by earth science professor Alan Levander, will conduct the explosive research, which will use about $1 million of the total.

Other experiments that are going to be conducted will use enhanced receptors for naturally occurring seismic activity. Also, they will analyze the magnetic and electrical properties of rock deep beneath the volcano. Scientists said that it will play a key role in identifying magma.

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