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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-279
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-279
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  23 Oct 2020

23 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Formation and evolution of newly formed glaciovolcanic caves in the crater of Mount St. Helens, Washington, USA

Linda Sobolewski1, Christian Stenner2, Charlotte Hüser1, Tobias Berghaus1, Eddy Cartaya3, and Andreas Pflitsch1 Linda Sobolewski et al.
  • 1Institute of Geography, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, 44801, Germany
  • 2Alberta Speleological Society, Calgary, AB T2Z2E3, Canada
  • 3Glacier Cave Explorers, Redmond, OR 97756, USA

Abstract. A new and extensive system of glaciovolcanic caves has developed around the 2004–2008 lava dome in the crater of Mount St. Helens, Washington, USA. These systems offer a rare view into a subglacial environment and lead to a better understanding of how glaciers and active volcanoes interact. Here, we present first results from geodetic and optical surveys done between 2014 and 2019 as well as climatologic studies performed between 2017 and 2019. Our data show that volcanic activity has altered subglacial morphology in numerous ways and formed new cave systems that are strongly affected by heat flux from several subglacial fumaroles. More than 2.3 km of cave passages now form a circumferential pattern around the dome, some several hundred meters long. Air and fumarole temperature measurements were conducted in two specific caves. Whereas air temperatures reveal a strong seasonal dependency, fumarole temperatures are affected to a minor extent and are primarily regulated by changes in volcanic heat flux or the contribution of glacial melt. Related studies from Mount Hood, Oregon, and Mount Rainier, Washington, are used as comparison between glaciovolcanic cave systems. Fumarolic heat and resulting microclimates enable further genesis of this dynamic system. Already one of the largest worldwide, it is very likely that the system will continue to expand. As Mount St. Helens is the Cascade Volcano most likely to erupt again in the near future, these caves represent a unique laboratory to understand glaciovolcanic interactions, monitor indicators of recurring volcanic activity and to predict related hazards.

Linda Sobolewski et al.

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Linda Sobolewski et al.

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Short summary
Glaciovolcanic caves are a rare phenomenon on glacier-covered volcanoes and provide the chance to better understand the interaction of glaciers and active volcanoes. Furthermore, they may be useful as indicators of volcanic unrest. We studied the newly formed cave systems around the 2004–2008 lava dome in the crater of Mount St. Helens and found out that the cave systems are highly dynamic, trending to expand in the near future, with fumarolic activity as the driving force.
Glaciovolcanic caves are a rare phenomenon on glacier-covered volcanoes and provide the chance...
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