May 17, 2010

30th Anniversary of 1980 Eruption of Mt. St. Helens

The 30th anniversary of the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens is tomorrow, and many may wonder: How far did ash from eruption of Mt. St. Helens travel?

On May 18, 1980, large clouds of ash from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens brought more than 500 million tons of ash to parts of Washington, Idaho and Montana. Traces of the ash were also found all over the world, and some remnants of ash particles stayed in the earth’s atmosphere for several years after the eruption in 1980.

In terms of measurable accumulations, the ash also traveled to central states, including parts of Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, the Dakotas and Nebraska. The longest distance recorded of the ash fallout was nearly 2,000 miles away from the volcano in the state of Oklahoma!

Photo courtesy of USGS

The ash itself caused many problems in the hardest hit regions downwind from Mt. St. Helens and around the Northwest. It destroyed crops and clogged machinery, and also impacted ground and air transportation. Although the short-term effects of volcanic ash are costly and often times deadly, ash also restores chemical nutrients to soil.

Learn more about the eruption and how the “blast zone” has changed over the last 30 years at the Burke Museum’s 30th Anniversary of the Eruption of Mt. St. Helens event. Attend presentations from local scientists about what they have learned from the eruption and view displays of specimens collected from the blast zone Tuesday, May 18th from 6 – 9 pm. For more information, click here.