This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," Oct. 4, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Joining us by phone from Seattle Bill Steele, is a seismologist at the University of Washington.
BILL STEELE, UNIV. OF WASHINGTON SEISMOLOGIST: Good evening.
VAN SUSTEREN: Good evening. So Bill, what is the likelihood, or is that just the impossible question everyone keeps asking you all day long, that this will be an eruption?
STEELE: Well, I think there's a strong likelihood it'll be an eruption, based on the way the volcano has behaved in the past. This — the amount of earthquakes we've had, the size, the frequency, is really unprecedented. The only other comparable analogy we can give is the build-up to the big eruption of May 18, 1980 (search).
VAN SUSTEREN: Who is the relationship between the steam blast and the earthquake activity in the area?
STEELE: That's a good question. In the case of the last one, there was no relationship whatsoever. We saw no seismic signal (search) from that blast. And indeed, the earthquakes really didn't change characteristic or frequency from it. In an earlier steam emission, we did have a period where the seismicity activity did drop off temporarily and then rapidly ramped up again, indicating that that earlier steam emission did perhaps change a little bit of the pressure — the pressure balance in part of the volcano. But this latest one didn't have any effect at all.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, there's a difference between studying the effects and sort of looking for the clues to indicate something's going to happen. What is it that you — that would be a big clue to you that something big is going to happen?
STEELE: Well, one of the things we're watching for closely is what's called "harmonic tremor," which is a kind of constant-amplitude vibration of the mountain. To give you an idea, though, of how strong this is, we picked up about an hour of harmonic tremor (search) earlier in this episode that was recorded from the Canadian border all the way down into central Oregon. So, I mean, we're talking about a tremendous amount of energy.
VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of — I know that this is probably an impossible question, but everyone always wants to know these things. Are we talking about hours, days, weeks? I mean, when could this thing erupt?
STEELE: Well, you know, the volcano doesn't care about our sleep cycles or the news cycle or anything else. It's working its way clear, gradually, pounding constantly, to get a relief to the crater floor. When that happens is really the big uncertainty. We're seeing a lot of deformation shallow. As you said before, it may be sooner than later, but it's possible that this could go on pounding away for weeks before we see the emission of magmas or lavas at the surface.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Bill, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
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