Thursday at #ESA2012 – well, almost

My undergraduate degree was in Forest Science, so I have known the Pacific Northwest via journal articles and texts for about a quarter of the century. But this trip to ESA2012 was the first time I have been here. So, when I had the opportunity to visit Mt St Helens on Thursday, I jumped at it. Since my undergraduate degree, disturbance ecology has been an enduring interest, and in disturbances, the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens figures prominently.

Not expecting to do any field trips, I left my camera at home, so my photos are nothing like this (but even with my camera, any photos would not have been comparable; some photos from my phone are below):

360 degree panoramic photo of Mt St Helens from the summit by Farwestern Photo (Gregg M. Erickson) via Wikimedia

Plenty has been said on the web about Mt St Helens (e.g., here and here), so I won’t add much more. However, the sheer size of the 1980 eruption and its effect on the landscape is astonishing. When standing beneath the mountain, one can only imagine the amount of energy released – it is more than awesome.

Apparently, the debris avalanche of the eruption was 2.9 cubic kilometres in volume. If that material were composed of a volcanic cone with sides sloping at 30 degrees, the height of the cone would have been 885 m tall. That is a seriously large hill being exploded many miles across the landscape.

I was sorry to miss the talks, but very pleased to see this amazing site.

Looking toward the crater of Mt St Helens from the north east


Looking away from the crater toward Mt Adams. This wasn’t even in the main direction of the eruption, but you can see the extent of the impact.

About Michael McCarthy

I conduct research on environmental decision making and quantitative ecology. My teaching is mainly at post-grad level at The University of Melbourne.
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