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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…

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…

Out in the field, doing experiments, meeting other scientists, and eating LOTS of pizza – a student’s perspective

A guest post:

Hello! We are three of Alison’s students at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Kadie Bennis is a Master’s student in the Department of Geosciences researching subaqueous volcanism while combining both field observations and experimental techniques to characterize sediment-magma interfaces.

Communicating about Agung, how did that even happen?

- Dr. Janine Krippner

At the end of 2017 I dropped everything in my life to communicate the Agung crisis online. Just me, my two cats, and my laptop at the kitchen table. All night, every night, for just over three months.

I am going over the notes that I took during the Agung crisis in order to prepare a talk that I will be giving at the Cities on Volcanoes conference next month. From the beginning, it was very clear to me that this was something that we, as a global volcanology community, need to learn from.

Crystal Clocks: How minerals in magmas can be used to unravel what happens before an eruption (Guest Blog by Dawn Ruth)

- Guest blogger Dawn C.S. Ruth@rockdoc11
Keeping time with volcanoes

Hi everyone. I’m neither Alison nor Janine. My name is Dawn C.S. Ruth and, like our fearless leaders, I also study volcanoes. However, where Alison uses experiments to delve deeper into volcanic processes, and Janine uses satellites to spy on volcanoes, I look at the minerals to see how magma moves and behaves before an eruption.

Communicating Volcanoes: Resources for Media

- Dr. Janine Krippner

Watching the Agung eruption unfold showed me firsthand some of the points of confusion when it comes to talking about volcanoes and eruptions. You can see the types of information and resources I gave during that time here. Below are resources that can help understand terminology and processes, and find authoritative sources of information. There are definitely more trustworthy websites than others and I provide them below. This is not a complete list and I will keep adding to it.

Communication is not my field of research (explosive volcanism is), this is purely based on my experience doing outreach on social media and working with media. If you have anything else that you would like to see added here, please let me know.

Firstly, what is a volcano? A volcano is an opening in the Earth where either solid, liquid, or gaseous materials come out of the Earth's surface (lava, ash, rocks, gas). More general information about volcanoes here.

Volcano observatories aro…