News In Brief

A murky word set off faulty volcano forecast

The impression that a major eruption at Mt. St. Helens in Washington State is imminent, fostered by recent wire service and television news reports, is the result of a misunderstanding, a spokeswoman for the US Geological Survey says.

Scientists monitoring the mountain expect a modest eruptive ''pulse,'' but nothing destructive beyond the mountain itself, she said. A plume of steam, earth tremors, and a mud slide or two are the extent of the activity anticipated.

Misleading news reports apparently stemmed from a misunderstanding between scientists and the local news media. In trying to explain the difference between what the mountain is now doing, one of the scientists described the nature of the predicted eruption as ''explosive,'' as opposed to ''dome building.'' In vulcanology, the term ''explosive'' is used to distinguish brief, energetic episodes from more gradual processes.

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