UW seismology lab analyzed quakes before Mount St. Helens eruption

Mount St. Helens exploded on this day 37 years ago. The volcano erupted again in 2004. Scientists are constantly monitoring St. Helens and other Cascade volcanoes for the next time.

Professor Emeritus Steve Malone was deeply involved in the science and analysis surrounding the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980.   

What is now known as the seismology lab at the University of Washington was a key center in analyzing earthquakes that lead up to the eruption. This was new science back then, and the university is deeply involved in pioneering science of today.

Related: Remembering Mount St. Helens eruption 37 years later

Malone is a seismologist who studies earthquakes, and earthquakes play a key role in volcanic eruptions.

However, Malone’s work has taken a personal turn as well. He was on the mountain just two days before the eruption and recalled the loss of colleague David Johnston.

“There were geologists from the USGS who were in the forest service offices in Vancouver, and they were reporting being able to see the plume, that they had lost contact with Dave Johnston, who they knew was not far away, and that this was much bigger than anyone had thought,” Malone said.


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