30 years ago to the day, Washington state's Mt. St. Helens volcano erupted. One side of the mountain collapsed, causing the world's largest recorded landslide. Volcanic mud coursed through nearby rivers and 230 square miles of the surrounding landscape lay covered in ash and debris.
NASA has used satellites to compile a 30-year time series tracking the eruption, destruction, and recuperation of the volcano and its surrounding region. In the images above, the red areas are vegetation and the gray and tan are bare rock or debris. The top image, captured the year before the eruption, shows a snow-covered summit encircled by dense forests, paler agricultural plots, and a patchwork of cleared squares for logging. The next image, from a few months after the eruption, shows the widespread devastation caused by the blast, while the final image, from last September, proves that vegetation has been steadily returning.
These images may be helpful for forecasting the potential damage Iceland's erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano may have on its surrounding area.
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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.