In DepthVOLCANOLOGY

Fire down below

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Science  13 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6262, pp. 725-726
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6262.725

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Summary

Geoscientists have revealed the magma plumbing that fed the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, the most active volcano in the Pacific Northwest. The emerging picture—one of the most detailed looks yet beneath a volcano—includes a reservoir of magma between 5 and 12 kilometers below the surface and a second, even larger one, between 12 and 40 kilometers down. The two chambers appear to be connected, which could help explain the sequence of events in the 1980 eruption and guide volcanologists monitoring the mountain for signs of renewed activity. The image is one of the first results from a 2014 campaign to understand the guts of the volcano using geophysical methods. Researchers stuck 3500 seismometers in the ground and set off 23 explosive shots around the volcano. Reflections of the energy waves from the shots could be used to distinguish subterranean features.