Mount St. Helens Glacier Gets A Name But May Be Short-Lived

POSTED: 7:50 am PST March 8, 2005

A glacier in the crater of Mount St. Helens has gotten a name, but it may be short-lived as emerging molten rock continues to warp and melt the snow and ice.

Mount St Helens' crater and dome

The Washington State Board on Geographic Names unanimously chose Tulutson, the Cowlitz Indian word for ice, last week over three other finalist names -- Crater, Spirit and Tamanawas, a loose tribal translation meaning "spiritual guidance."

Approval by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names is expected.

Roy I. Wilson of Bremerton, a board member and Cowlitz tribal elder, said it was worthwhile to name the glacier even if it doesn't last long because of higher public interest in the volcano since the relative quiet dome-building eruption began early last fall.

"This is something new to look at," Wilson said. "It's building, it's developing. It's Tulutson. It's ice."

In addition, this spring marks the 25th anniversary of the devastating eruption of May 18, 1980, which left 57 people dead, leveled dense forests for miles around and covered much of the Pacific Northwest with gritty volcanic ash.

In the succeeding years the glacier formed on the inside of the south wall of the gaping, horseshoe-shaped crater that opens to the north. Snow accumulated each winter, became compressed into ice and was further protected from sunlight and warm weather by rock and debris falling from the steep slope.

The glacier is now wrapped around the 876-foot-high lava dome that was formed in a series of much quieter eruptions between 1980 and 1986. It is one of the few glaciers on Earth that have grown during the past few years. Most glaciers have been shrinking. a development cited by many scientists as a sign of global warming.

The newer lava dome, still growing, has severely warped the east arm of the glacier dramatically and the main part of the glacier has been slipping northward down the crater slope at about 4 feet a day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The amount of volume lost in the last five months remains undetermined.

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