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NOVA: Mt. St. Helens Back From The Dead

Mt. St. Helens eruption. NOVA presents a pioneering look at the interplay between biology and geology that may help scientists predict future volcanic eruptions.
Gary Rosenquist ©Joel E. Harvey
Mt. St. Helens eruption. NOVA presents a pioneering look at the interplay between biology and geology that may help scientists predict future volcanic eruptions.

Airs Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, every living thing in the blast zone was buried beneath 300 feet of avalanche debris, covered with steaming mud and, finally, topped with a superheated layer of frothy rock from deep within the earth. It seemed as though Mount St. Helens might remain a wasteland forever. Then, to everyone’s surprise, life began to bloom again.

Life Returns to the Blast Zone

In this audio slide show, ecologist Charlie Crisafulli marvels at nature's recovery after St. Helens’ 1980 eruption.

Filming in a Disaster Area

Director Daniel Hissen felt equal parts inspiration and anxiety while shooting amidst the devastation.

Over the course of 30 years, biologist Charlie Crisafulli has been documenting the dramatic return of plant and animal life to the barren landscape. But he has also tracked a new threat. The mountain, like the wildlife, is coming back to life.

Soon after the 1980 eruption, new lava was bubbling up to the surface, and in 2004, a flurry of explosions blasted steam and ash thousands of feet into the air over Mount St. Helens. What force is driving this baffling pattern?

Using GPS, magnetic mapping and more, geologists are tracking the movement of magma deep within the volcano and revealing a hidden lattice of faults that lies beneath the volatile landscape.

"Mt. St. Helens Back From The Dead" presents a pioneering look at the interplay between biology and geology that may help scientists predict future volcanic eruptions.

This program originally aired in 2010.

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Watch Mt. St. Helens: Back From the Dead on PBS. See more from NOVA.

When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, every living thing in the blast zone was buried beneath 300 feet of avalanche debris. Then, to everyone's surprise, life began to bloom again. NOVA presents a pioneering look at the interplay between biology and geology that may help scientists predict future volcanic eruptions.