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Back in time to Mount St. Helens: News coverage of the 1980 eruption

- Dr. Janine Krippner

Today marks another anniversary of the deadly eruption of Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington, USA. This eruption was one of those events where most remember where they were around the world when they heard the news. It changed the lives of those around the volcano - those who lost friends or family, their homes, their view of the local landscape, and their belief that 'it won't happen to me'. Fifty-seven people were lost, including volcanologist David Johnston (his biography is out now here). People around the world know this volcano after this day.

Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. Courtesy of USGS.
Thirty-nine years ago the world watched as the eruption took place, so what did they see? What it was like for those who experienced the eruption firsthand? What did the rest of the country see through the experiences of reporters and those who were there?

When the next continental-US volcano erupts some of us will be there. Some of us will have to cl…

So you want to visit an active volcano?

- Dr. Janine Krippner

This is a scary blog post to write. Why? Because even if you follow every bit of advice here you could still get hurt on a volcano. No one wants to give inadequate advice but I do not want to see any of you get hurt. The only way to eliminate the risk of getting injured or killed on a volcano is to not be there. I repeat: The only way to eliminate the risk of getting hurt or killed on a volcano is to not be there. But you can take some safety steps to reduce that risk. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list, and above all else, ALWAYS follow advice from local agencies who know the volcano and work to keep people safe.

Last week a young man lost his life at Stromboli. He wasn't doing anything wrong. There was a large explosion that gave no warning and he never went home to his friends and family. This is what we face when we visit volcanoes. It is a calculated risk just like getting into your car. I love volcanoes and I intend to keep visiting them, so …

YELLOWSTONE and our new Popular Volcanics podcast

- Dr. Janine Krippner

YELLOWSTONE is gonna BLOW... is something you see in tabloid headlines in some form or another far too often. Let me start off with saying how sick I am of seeing all of you being lied to about this volcano. Let's chat about the facts, where to find the facts, and how to spot the junk 'news' on Yellowstone.

So what is actually happening with this volcano, or "supervolcano" to use the recently popular term? My colleague Dr. Erik Klemetti got in touch about starting a volcano podcast and we have jumped right in, tackling the big problem-child volcano to kick things off.

Why make a volcano podcast?

Because I want YOU to be able to find and understand all the good stuff about volcanoes. You don't deserve to search for volcano information only to find tabloid junk. I am trying to fix this, step-by-step.

Our brand new podcast is Popular Volcanics (you can head over to our new website here) where Erik and I are your hosts and we will bring in g…

The Life and Legacy of Volcanologist David A. Johnston: Setting the Record Straight

- Dr. Janine Krippner
People around the world know that David Johnston was a volcanologist at Mount St. Helens in 1980, and that he was killed when the volcano erupted. His last words are repeated over and over. His last photo shared all over the internet. What isn't widely discussed is who he really was as a person. Author Melanie Holmes has dedicated the last four years to talking to his friends, colleagues, and family. Her journey began as a result of a conversation between friends—Melanie has known Dave’s sister more than three decades. Since she began, Melanie has read reams of clippings and letters that his parents kept, as well as Dave’s teenage diary. And she spoke to those of us who carry on his scientific legacy today. It is time that his story is told, 39 years later, to clear up misconceptions and to fill in the gaps about who he was – a genuinely nice guy.
“As a man, Dave left his mark on the world through his work in the field of geology. More important, and this is…

Volcanic ash is not fluffy & volcanoes don't smoke! Setting the story straight & how to protect yourself.

- Dr. Janine Krippner
Top information resources for volcanic ash:
USGS Volcanic Ash Impacts and Mitigation

The International Volcanic Health Hazard Network 

GNS Be Prepared: Volcanic Ashfall

Global Volcanic Hazards and Risk 

List of Volcano Observatories

Items to stock before ashfall

As you read this, there are likely around 20 volcanoes actively erupting right now. There are over 40 ongoing eruptions around the world. There are 1,431 volcanoes that we consider to be potentially active, or that erupted recently enough to be able to erupt any time soon (list here), and there are hundreds of millions of people living around those volcanoes. On top of that, there are many people who travel to or near volcanoes, and even more who fly around the world in planes that can be impacted by volcanic ash. Freight planes and ships can be halted and economies are impacted. As you see in this first video that was taken at Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, volcanic ashfall can be a frightening experience.


Magma Plumbing Systems: A Geophysical Perspective

- Guest blog! Craig Magee

Volcanic systems are complicated. Nearly as complicated, it turns out, as figuring out how to introduce your first blogpost. I’ve finally decided on...

Hello! I’m Craig.

Usually I introduce myself as a volcanologist. It’s much easier and sounds more exciting than saying ‘I’m a structural igneous geologist’, which then requires deciphering.Unfortunately, given the expertise of the usual reporters for this most excellent blog, I cannot really pass myself off as a volcanologist. The only active volcanoes I’ve been to are on Lanzarote, which I can’t even remember the name of, and Taupo in New Zealand. I’ve never even seen a volcano erupt! Instead, I specialise in mapping ancient magma plumbing systems in 3D and reconstructing their formation.

To circle back to my opening remark, we have learned a lot about volcanoes but it seems the more we learn the more complicated they become. One problem that I’m sure we’re all aware of and that becomes immediately apparent w…