Plinian column of ash, gas & pulverised rock shooting out of Mt. St. Helens volcano, Washington State, USA, during the first eruption of 18th May 1980. Mt St Helens forms part of the Cascade Range, an almost unbroken chain of geologically young volcanoes, running from southern British Columbia, Canada, to northern California, USA. The range has built up as a result of plate tectonics; the submergence of the Pacific Ocean plate under the North American continent. The initial eruption of the volcano was horizontal, followed by a vertical explosion (here), which surged upward for 12 miles into the atmosphere.
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