Historical Background

Scope and Content

Digital Content

Restrictions on Access

Acquisition Info

Processing Info

Inventory

Subject Terms


Guide to the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service Collection of Mount St. Helens Photographs



PH Collection No.: 613
Creator: United States. National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service , photographer
Title: National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service Collection of Mount St. Helens Photographs
Date Span: May 18-19, 1980
Quantity: 15 photographic prints
Location: K0185
Languages: Collection materials are in English.
Western U.S., 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruption, May 18, 1980. Special Collections, UW Libraries, UW22287z

Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.



Historical Background

Mount St. Helens, located in southwestern Washington State, erupted on May 18, 1980. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the eruption occurred at 8:32 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Before the eruption, the elevation of the volcano had been 9,677 feet. Afterward, it was 8,363 feet, having lost 1,314 feet in elevation. The explosion blew out the northwest side of the mountain and pulverized about a third of the volcano, which turned into mud and ash. The ash cloud blackened the sky as it traveled eastward, leaving detectable amounts of ash over an area of 22,000 square miles. The ash cloud reached a height of about 80,000 feet in less than 15 minutes after the eruption. It spread across the U.S. in 3 days and circled the globe in 15 days. In all, 1.4 billion cubic yards of ash were thrown into the air by the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

The first image (1) was produced by the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHHR) aboard the NOAA-6 satellite. The NOAA-6 was a polar-orbiting spacecraft. NOAA-6 holds the record for the longest duration of operations of any polar orbiting meteorological satellite, having been in operation for 2,834 days between its launch on June 27, 1979, and its deactivation on March 31, 1987. It remains in orbit.

The GOES-West satellite, referenced in the rest of the images (2 - 15), was actually GOES-3 at the time of the Mount St. Helens eruption. GOES-3 was the third satellite in the GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) series. The satellites in the GOES series maintain geostationary (fixed position in relation to the surface of the earth) orbits in specific locations. One such position is over the Pacific Ocean, and while occupying that position, a satellite is known as GOES-West. The GOES-West images in this series were produced with the Visible Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer (VISSR) on GOES-3. GOES-3 was launched on June 16, 1978. It remains in orbit and on standby.

Scope and Content

This series of satellite photographs shows the Mount St. Helens volcano eruption and the movement of the massive ash plume across the United States on May 18 and 19, 1980. The volcano was viewed by both the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's NOAA-6 polar-orbiting satellite and GOES-West geostationary satellite. These images received widespread attention in the news media and periodicals. Images 3, 4, 6, and 10 appeared in the May 26, 1980, issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.

All images were annotated for date, time, and satellite. Please note that the GOES-West images reference 8:39 a.m. PDT as the time of eruption, not the more commonly accepted 8:32 a.m. PDT as reported by the USGS.

Digital Content

View selections from the collection in digital format.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is open to the public.

Acquisition Info

Source: Jermaine Magnuson (Mrs. Warren Magnuson).

Processing Info

Processed by Justin Otto, 2002.

These photographs were removed from the Warren G. Magnuson Papers (Accession no. 3181) in the repository in 1986 or 1987.


Inventory

 
Folder Item Date
11Ash cloud, with Seattle, Tacoma, and Yakima, Wash., and Portland Or., and Mount St. Helens marked for referenceMay 18,1980
NOAA-6 image, 9:54 a.m. PDT, May 18, 1980.
 
2Western U.S., 24 minutes prior to Mount St. Helens eruptionMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 8:15 a.m. PDT, May 18, 1980.
 
3Western U.S., 6 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruption   View imageMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 8:45 a.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud is visible in southwest Washington State, south of Puget Sound.
 
4Western U.S., 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruptionMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 9:15 a.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud is visible in southwest Washington State, expanding eastward.
 
5Western U.S., 1 hour, 6 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruption   View imageMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 9:45 a.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud is visible in southwest Washington State, expanding eastward.
 
6Western U.S., 1 hour, 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruptionMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 10:15a.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud is visible in southwest Washington State, expanding eastward in Washington State and into north-central Oregon.
 
7Western U.S., 2 hours, 6 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruptionMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 10:45 a.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud now obscures most of the eastern half of Washington State and is also moving southward into eastern Oregon.
 
8Western U.S., 2 hours, 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruptionMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 11:15 a.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud continues to move eastward through Washington and southward into eastern Oregon.
 
9Western U.S., 3 hours, 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruption   View imageMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 12:15 p.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud continues to move eastward through Washington and southward into eastern Oregon. Cloud begins to move into Idaho.
 
10Western U.S., 4 hours, 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruptionMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 1:15 p.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud now obscures most of Washington, eastern Oregon, and northern Idaho.
 
11Western U.S., 5 hours, 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruptionMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 2:15 p.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud now obscures most of Washington, eastern Oregon, and northern Idaho, and is moving southward through Idaho.
 
12Western U.S., 6 hours, 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruption   View imageMay 18, 1980
GOES-West image, 3:15 p.m. PDT, May 18, 1980. Ash cloud now obscures most of Washington. It has moved out of eastern Oregon, now obscuring northern and central Idaho, and is moving into western Montana.
 
13Western U.S., 24 hours, 6 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruptionMay 19, 1980
GOES-West image, 8:45 a.m. PDT, May 19, 1980. Ash cloud has moved eastward into Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado.
 
14Western U.S., 26 hours, 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruptionMay 19, 1980
GOES-West image, 11:15 a.m. PDT, May 19, 1980. Ash cloud has moved into western Kansas, western Oklahoma, and north Texas.
 
15Western U.S., 26 hours, 36 minutes after Mount St. Helens eruption   View imageMay 19, 1980
GOES-West image, 11:15 a.m. PDT, May 19, 1980. Ash cloud has moved eastward and covers most of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Subject Terms

Subjects:
Volcanic ash, tuff, etc.--Northwest, Pacific--Photographs from space.
Volcanic ash, tuff, etc.--West (U.S.)--Photographs from space.
Volcanoes--Washington (State)--Saint Helens, Mount--Photographs from space.
Geographic Names:
Saint Helens, Mount (Wash.)--Eruption, 1980--Photographs from space.
Genre Headings:
Photographs from space.
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