Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Anniversary of Mount St. Helens Eruption

Thirtieth Anniversary of a Geologic Catastrophe

by Andrew A. Snelling

May 18 marks the thirtieth anniversary of one of the most violent natural disasters of our time, the colossal 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. This catastrophic geologic event not only shocked the world because of its explosive power and made headline news, but challenged the foundations of evolutionary theory.

The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington is regarded by many as the most significant geologic event of the twentieth century, excelling all others in its extraordinary documentation and scientific study. Although not the most powerful explosion of the last century, that eruption provided a significant learning experience within a natural laboratory for the understanding of catastrophic geologic processes. And thirty years later we learn that Mount St. Helens still confronts the underlying slow-and-gradual assumptions of modern geologic thinking.

The beautiful mountain before it erupted thirty years ago today. (Photo by R. Fleshman from

Today’s Mount St. Helens (Photo by R. Fleshman from

On May 18, 1980, a steam blast equivalent to 20 megatons of TNT destroyed the northern side of the once-pristine shape of the volcano. Geologists, who are accustomed to thinking about slow evolutionary processes forming geologic features, were astounded to witness many of these same features form rapidly as a result of that and subsequent eruptions. We are indebted to Dr. Steven Austin of the Institute for Creation Research for his work in documenting carefully the geologic results of this astounding catastrophe. The following undeniable lessons still confront us, thirty years on.

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