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The Eruptive History of Mount St. Helens

by Donal R. Mullineaux and Dwight R. Crandell


The eruptive history of Mount St. Helens is subdivided here into nine named eruptive "periods," which are clusters of eruptions distinguished by close association in time, by similarity of rock types, or both. The term "eruptive period" is used in an informal and largely arbitrary sense to divide the volcano's history into convenient units for the purpose of discussion. The periods are as much as several thousand years in duration, and include what may have been a single group of eruptions as well as extended episodes of volcanism, during which there were tens or possibly hundreds of eruptions. Eruptive periods are separated by apparently dormant intervals, which are inferred chiefly from buried soils and absence of eruptive deposits. However, some dormant intervals may span times of minor activity that did not produce deposits which can now be recognized. Fine-grained, air-laid volcanic detritus was deposited during some dormant intervals, but these deposits are not known to have originated directly from eruptions; they might be material reworked from the flanks of the volcano.

The stratigraphic record of eruptive activity during the last 13,000 yr is believed to be reasonably complete. Parts of the older record, however, apparently are missing because of glacial and stream erosion during the last major glaciation (the late Pleistocene Fraser Glaciation) of the region.


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