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“One of the most engaging speakers” to give lecture on volcanoes


The Geological Sciences Department is pleased to host the 34th annual Quey Hebrew Lecture on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in WSC 3228. Distinguished volcanologist Don Swanson will speak. Swanson will discuss “Two Eruptions of a Lifetime: Comparing the 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens and the 2018 Eruption of Kīlauea.”

“Don is one of the most engaging speakers we have ever had speak at BYU,” said Jeffrey Keith, professor in BYU’s Department of Geological Sciences. “He was one of the first people to enter the crater at Mount St. Helens shortly after it blew its top in 1980. He has some remarkable stories and photos to share from the eruption and his other work.”

Swanson currently researches Kīlauea, the most active volcano on the island Hawaiʻi. He was on the ground at Kīlauea last summer as the caldera collapsed and subdivisions were engulfed by lava. In contrast, Swanson said the volcano is currently the quietest that he has ever seen it. There is no magma entering the shallow magma chamber, so we don’t know what to expect next.

Swanson studied Kilauea’s Mauna Ulu eruption from 1969-74, and has been widely recognized for documenting new eruptive behaviors. Later he began work on Mount St. Helens.

“I grew up near Mount St. Helens, and [colleague] Hans and I climbed it in 1963. Its unrest and ultimate eruption in 1980 proved irresistible, and I joined the group that morphed into the Cascades Volcano Observatory,” said Swanson when he received the 2016 Distinguished Geologic Career Award from the Geological Society of America.

He first became involved with Mount St. Helens after he set up an instrumental network in 1972 to measure the deformation. “I was asked to be in charge of the St. Helens study should something happen,” he said. “When there were earthquake swarms in March of 1980, a team was set up, and I was put in charge of the deformation team.” This team successfully predicted most of the dome-building eruptions of St. Helens.

Swanson has been the recipient of many awards throughout his 50-year career. Most recently, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Geologic Career Award (MGPV Division) in 2016.

Swanson has taken his love for volcanology beyond Kīlauea’s Mauna Ulu to the Columbia River Basalts and the Cascade Range. He describes his work on Kilauea’s eruptive cycles as “his last major project.”

Please RSVP here if you plan to attend the lecture (not necessary to attend, but the RSVP helps us order enough refreshments).