This assessment seems to agree with an earlier study that there is a two-step magma chamber system beneath Mount St. Helens – a giant chamber at a depth of roughly 5 kilometers (3 miles) appears to be fed by a far larger one at 12 kilometers (7.5 miles). It also suggests that something major destabilized the deeper magma and forced it upwards within a very short space of time just prior to the massive eruption.
“Now we have found this movement, it’s reasonable to assume that similar movement will precede any further eruptions from this and perhaps many other volcanoes,” Blundy added, before pointing out that there is no single factor that can predict when a volcano erupts, and that this crystal zoning may not be seen in many other volcanoes around the world.
Can this method be used to predict when Mount St. Helens will erupt next? Sadly not – crystals within the magma chamber can only be accessed post-eruption, so this is all retrospective. However, recognizing this type of crystal zoning will help volcanologists understand how volcanoes erupt in the first place.
So overall, this study is not a crystal ball, but rather a step in the right direction.
Shame we can't look at this before the eruption happens... Budkov Denis/Shutterstock