USGS Multimedia Gallery
Information presented is factual at the time of creation.
If no transcript and/or closed-caption is available, please notify us.
Title: Mount St. Helens 1980 Ash Cloud as Seen From Space
Eruptive activity at Mount St. Helens captured the world’s attention on May 18, 1980 when the largest historical landslide on Earth and a powerful explosion reshaped the volcano. A volcanic ash cloud spread across the US in 3 days, and encircled the Earth in 15 days.
This mini-movie compiled from individual satellite images taken in 1980 shows the ash cloud as it enlarged, and was carried by winds across the western United States. Each photo identifies Mount St. Helens, some large cities, and the ash cloud. These satellite images are used courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The first satellite picture was taken at 8:15 a.m. PDT, 17 minutes before the eruption. The next six pictures were taken every half hour until 11:15 a.m. PDT. Thereafter, images were taken every hour through 4:15 p.m. PDT.
Images taken on May 19, 1980 show the distinctive ash plume drifting across the Rocky Mountains and high plains. These 3 images were shot at 8:45 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Because ash can travel so far and can be hazardous, we must keep in mind that there are no remote volcanoes.
The eruption of Mount St. Helen’s killed 57 people, and losses exceeded $1 billion. Since the eruption, hundreds of volcanologists from around the world have come to study Mount St. Helens. Scientists from the United States have in turn traveled around the world to share the experience of Mount St. Helens and seek lessons from other volcanoes.
Mount St. Helens awes and inspires visitors, and challenges all of us to greater levels of preparedness.
Location: Mount St. Helens, WA, USA
Date Taken: 5/18/1980
Video Producer: Melissa N. White , U.S. Geological Survey
Note: This video has been released into the public domain by the U.S. Geological Survey for use in its entirety. Some videos may contain pieces of copyrighted material. If you wish to use a portion of the video for any purpose, other than for resharing/reposting the video in its entirety, please contact the Video Producer/Videographer listed with this video. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this video.
Additional Video Credits:
NOAA, Melissa N. White, David W. Ramsey, Carolyn Driedger
Learn more about volcanoes at the USGS Volcano Hazards website.
Suggest an update to the information/tags?
* DOI and USGS link and privacy policies apply.