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Mount Saint Helens Facts

Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano located 52 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon, and 98 miles south of Seattle.

In 1980, it erupted, killing people and destroying homes. After its 1980 eruption, Mount St Helens had continuous volcanic activity until 2008. 

Mount Saint Helens Facts for Kids

  • Mount St. Helens is a stratovolcano
  • Mount Saint Helens is in the Cascade Range, southwestern Washington, U.S.
  • It’s the most active volcano in the contiguous United States
  • It last erupted at 8:30 a.m. on May 18, 1980
  • Between September 2004 and January 2008, it had continuous minor eruptions.

What is the history of Mount St. Helens?

Mount Saint Helens is a volcano located in Washington State. The mountain has a long and storied history, with plenty of activity to keep geologists busy!

The volcano was first discovered by British explorers in 1792. However, it wasn’t until 1857 that the mountain was officially named after St. Helens, an English bishop who had passed away several years earlier.

Activity on the mountain ramped up in the early 20th century, with several major eruptions occurring between 1900 and 1965. In 1980, Mount Saint Helens erupted in one of the most violent eruptions in American history. The blast left a huge scar on the landscape and destroyed many homes and businesses in the area.

The volcano was designated as a National Volcanic Monument in 1982, with the goal of returning it to its natural state over time. A monument is essentially an area set aside for protection and study purposes.

Mount Saint Helens remained inactive for much of the 1990s and 2000s but began to show signs of activity again in 2004. It eventually re-opened to climbing in 2006 but was again closed due to renewed activity later that year.

Climbers now have access to the Loowit Trail at elevations of 4000–4900 feet (1,200–1,500 m). The trail is paved the entire way, with only one small section of unpaved trail near the South Fork Toutle River. Mount Saint Helens is located in a restricted zone, and off-trail excursions are not allowed.

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

How did Mount St. Helens form?

Mount St. Helens started growing 37,600 years ago, during the Ape Canyon stage and erupted dacite and andesite lava. A large mudflow cascaded down the volcano 36 000 years ago, and parts of the cone were fragmented and transported by glaciers 14,000 – 18,000 years ago.

The symmetrical appearance of St. Helens before the 1980 eruption earned it the nickname “Mount Fuji of America.” Several large eruptions occurred between 1480 and 1482, and several mudflows and pyroclastic flow subsequently rushed down the western flanks.

Mount St. Helens is part of the Cascade Volcanic Province, which is formed when a dense oceanic plate sinks beneath the North American Plate. The process causes water molecules to escape from solid rock and melt some of the Earth’s crust.

What are the characteristics of Mount St. Helens?

Mount St. Helens is composed mostly of lava rock interlayered with pumice, ash, and other deposits. Several domes of dacite lava have erupted through layers of basalt and andesite.

It’s the fifth-highest peak in Washington and is 6 miles (9.7 km) across at its base. It is fed by three main river systems: the Toutle River, the Kalama River, and the Lewis River.

A new glacier appeared in 1980 – 1981, and it grew rapidly, covering 0.36 square miles (0.93 km2) by 2004. It is nearly as deep as the much older and larger Carbon Glacier of Mount Rainier.

Mount St. Helens is part of the Cascade Volcanic Province, which is formed when a dense oceanic plate sinks beneath the North American Plate. The process causes water molecules to escape from solid rock and melt some of the Earth’s crust.

The mountain is named after its predecessor–Mount Saint Helen’s–which exploded in 1857 AD. The lateral blast from that eruption changed the height and appearance of Mount Saint Helen’s significantly, leaving behind a horseshoe-shaped crater at the summit.

What is the climate like near Mount St. Helens?

The climate near Mount St. Helens is a mix of rainforest and temperate forest with hot summers and mild winters. The average precipitation for Mount St. Helens ranges from 9 to 190 inches of rainfall during the course of a year due to its location in the Pacific Northwest region near several mountain ranges such as the Cascades and the Rocky Mountains.

Helens Summit has an average temperature of about 41 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter but drops to about 22 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The climate data for Mount St. Helens was taken from 1991-to 2020 and shows that there is a big difference between the highs and lows of this mountain.

Mount St. Helens is located in the Washington State Cascade Mountain range

What is the vegetation like near Mount St. Helens?

Some plants and animals survived the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, but most were unable to live in the harsh new environment. Winds brought light seeds and insects to the area, and they attracted birds, deer, and elk from nearby areas.

The wind carried seeds, spiders, and insects to Mount St. Helens, where prairie lupine, a purple-blue wildflower, was one of the first plants to grow on the barren land.

The lupine patch became a biological hotspot attracting numerous insects, birds, and small mammals and taught Crisafulli the importance of chance in the development of ecological relationships across the volcanic landscape.

How did the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens impact the surrounding area?

The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was one of the deadliest and most destructive volcanic eruptions in United States history. The eruption caused 57 deaths, millions of dollars in damage, and the destruction of over 200 homes.

One reason the death toll was so low is that the eruption happened on a Sunday morning when logging would have been taking place instead of during work hours. If the eruption had occurred during working hours, the death toll would have been much higher.

David A Johnston became famous because he chose not to evacuate despite repeated pleas from local authorities and was killed as a result of his choice. Johnston, a scientist, stationed on Coldwater Ridge, was killed when the pyroclastic flow hit.

President Jimmy Carter surveyed the area for damage and called it “a moonscape.” A film crew led by Seattle filmmaker Otto Seiber documented the destruction via helicopter drop-in on May 23, and their footage became the popular documentary “The Eruption of Mount St Helens.”

The crew of the Spirit was stranded in the woods after a volcano erupted. Their film, “The Eruption of Mount St Helens,” became a popular documentary

What are some of the dangers associated with Mount St. Helens?

Mount St. Helens is a very active volcano located in Washington State. It’s more active than other Cascade volcanoes and has had several eruptions in the past. The eruption of 1980 destroyed the top cone and began developing 2,200 years ago.

Since it’s so close to rivers and forests, Mount St. Helens mostly affects low-lying areas. In addition, ash clouds and mild explosions can occur for 15 years after an eruption. The last known eyewitness report of a volcanic eruption was made by Meredith Gairdner in March 1835.

The first known eyewitness report of a volcanic eruption was made by Meredith Gairdner in March 1835

How is Mount St. Helens monitored?

It’s currently being monitored by a team of 60+ scientists, technicians, and support staff who are looking for signs of increased volcanic activity or earthquakes possibly indicating an imminent eruption. The team monitors the volcano on a daily basis from the air and ground.

The goal of this monitoring is to provide advance warning so that people can be evacuated if necessary. In addition, the data collected helps scientists learn more about how volcanoes work and how they can potentially affect people and property.

So far, Mount St. Helens has shown no sign of increased activity, but the team remains vigilant in case that changes.

What are the current conditions at Mount St. Helens?

The volcano is currently considered a potential eruption-prone volcano by geologists, although it has been relatively calm in recent years.

Despite this, the Helens Volcano Observatory is constantly monitoring the volcano and streaming live videos of its activities online so that people can stay up-to-date on what’s happening.

In addition to this, 600,000 people visit the area each year to see the monument and take part in tourism. The primary industry in this region is tourism, which helps support the local economy.

What are the future plans for Mount St. Helens?

The USGS is constantly monitoring Mount St. Helens for signs of an impending eruption. In the event of another eruption, they have several plans in place to minimize the damage and protect people living in the area.

One such plan is to increase the release of pressure before an eruption happens. This will help reduce the destructive power of the next eruption. Another plan is to warn people living near the volcano about potential lahars.

A lahar is a flow of volcanic material that can cause significant destruction in inhabited areas. The USGS has also created evacuation routes and shelters in case of an emergency.

Mount St. Helens has erupted many times since 1980, and it’s likely to do so again in the future. Each time it erupts, we learn more about how to protect people and property from its destructive force.

The USGS is constantly monitoring Mount St. Helens for signs of an impending eruption, and they have several plans in place to minimize the damage and protect people living in the area.