Study aims to map Mount St. Helens magma

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A group of scientists is laying the groundwork for a broad study that could chart the inner workings of Mount St. Helens and its magma supply.

The two-year project, called Imaging Magma Under St. Helens, aims to improve volcanic monitoring and advance warning systems at Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes.

Researchers will use thousands of instruments to conduct various methods of seismic monitoring on and around the volcano. They'll also observe fluctuations in the earth's electromagnetic field. Active-source monitoring will occur beginning in 2014, according to the University of Washington, which is participating in the study.

The work will fall within a large area bound by Mount Rainier to the north, the Columbia River to the south, Mount Adams to the east and Interstate 5 to the west. Researchers chose Mount St. Helens as the focus of their work because it's the most active volcano in the region, and it's accessible by scientists and equipment.

Besides the University of Washington, project participants include the U.S. Geological Survey, Oregon State University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and Rice University. The effort is primarily funded through the National Science Foundation.