Late last month, 120 miniature earthquakes shook the slopes of Mount St. Helens. Due to this activity, many have been reminded that the volcano is still quite active, and could, unfortunately, erupt at any time.
The mountain itself was responsible for the most devastating volcanic eruption in the history of the United States.
“Each of these little earthquakes is a clue and a reminder we are marching toward an eruption someday,” Weston Thelen, a seismologist with U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, told The Columbian, which first reported the story.
While the earthquakes themselves were so minute that they could not be felt by someone walking directly over their areas of origination, many scientists believe that the quakes are clues to the fact that the volcano is beginning to recharge.
According to scientific researchers, the quakes are caused by magma that comes into the volcanic system and is then stored. At this point, gases are released and the fluids travel into cracks. This in turn causes an earthquake in the area of the volcano.
While the volcano itself remains massively a mystery to the researchers, they do take advantage of the occurrence of earthquakes as they happen. The earthquakes provide them with insight as to what transpires beneath the earth’s crust and inside of the volcano. According to them, and their summary of this particular incident, “We know Mount St. Helens is slowly re-pressurizing,” Liz Westby, a Cascades Volcano Observatory geologist, told The Colombian. “We can’t see it, but we think it’s inflating subtly.”