The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has detected small quakes that jolted Mount St. Helens, which indicate that the active volcano might erupt anytime soon.
But how soon? USGS scientist Seth Moran told Live Science that it might be years or decades before the next eruption. Mount St. Helens, considered the most active volcano in the Cascade Range, last erupted in the 1980s.
According to the report, there have been several small earthquakes recorded around the range. The report, however, noted that this is not a prediction of the precise date of a pending eruption, but a mere estimate of a probability of the volcano’s next eruption in years, even decades.
Records from the USGS showed that years before the massive eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, there were more than 10,000 earthquakes registered on the Richter scale. The same eruption has claimed at least 57 lives, and many were left homeless.
It added that the tiny temblors started small, but as time progressed, the series of small shakes started to intensify as much as 5.1-magnitude. But Moran said the current earthquakes the agency has been recording are more subtle, reaching a maximum 1.5-magnitude.
In a recent report from the USGS, the latest detectable earthquake recorded in Mount St. Helens was on March 16, reaching magnitude 1.5 with a depth of 1.2-4 miles. It added that in a span of weeks, the agency has already recorded at least 130 minor quakes, with an average of 40 per week.
“The magma chamber is likely imparting its own stresses on the crust around and above it, as the system slowly recharges. The stress drives fluids through cracks, producing the small quakes. The current pattern of seismicity is similar to swarms seen at Mount St. Helens in 2013 and 2014; recharge swarms in the 1990s had much higher earthquake rates and energy release,” the USGS report reads.