Mount St. Helens Building Magma for Next Eruption

May 02, 2014 11:02 AM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

Could Mount St. Helens surprise with another eruption in the near future?

Scientists say the active volcano in Washington state likely won't be exploding ash and debris over the area any time soon, but its magma levels have been rising, Reuters reported.

Around 8,300 feet high, Mount St. Helens famously erupted in 1980, killing 57 people and causing more than a billion dollars' worth of property damage. The natural disaster followed a 5.2-magnitude earthquake, but the volcano itself had no earlier signs that an eruption was coming.

"The magma reservoir beneath Mount St. Helens has been slowly re-pressurizing since 2008," the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement on Wednesday. "It is likely that re-pressurization is caused by (the) arrival of a small amount of additional magma 4 to 8 km (2.5 to 5 miles) beneath the surface."

The U.S. Geological Survey said the building magma is normal for an active volcano and an eruption isn't expected any time soon.

Scientists have been monitoring the volcano, which has been building magma 2.5 to 5 miles below the surface, since it last erupted from 2004 to 2008, CBS News reported.

"This is giving long-term (data) that it's getting ready to erupt again, but it could be decades before it does something again," said Seth Moran, a volcano seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, as quoted by CBS News. "It's getting ready, but it's not there."

Keeping a close eye on the active volcano, researchers should be able to predict next time Mount St. Helens blows its top.

"This is probably what Mount St. Helens does," Moran said of the volcanic re-pressurization, as quoted by CBS News. "It may stay perched at ready stage for a long time before it starts to erupt. The reassuring thing is: when it's really ready to erupt, it gives lots and lots of signs."

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