Trajectories of the Mount St. Helens Eruption Plume

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Science  20 Feb 1981:
Vol. 211, Issue 4484, pp. 819-821
DOI: 10.1126/science.211.4484.819


The plume of the major eruption of Mount St. Helens on 18 May 1980 penetrated 10 to 11 kilometers into the stratosphere, attaining heights of 22 to 23 kilometers. Wind shears rapidly converted the plume from an expanding vertical cone to a thin, slightly inclined lamina. The lamina was extruded zonally in the stratosphere as the lower part moved eastward at jet stream velocities, while the upper part slowly moved westward in the region of nonsteady transition from the westerlies to the summer stratospheric easterlies. Trajectories computed to position the NASA U-2 aircraft for sampling in the plume are described. Plume volume after 8 hours of strong volcanic emission is estimated at 2 x 106 cubic kilometers. Only about 1 percent of this volume is attributed to the volcano; the rest was entrained from the environment.