The results from two different types of gas measurement, telemetered in situ monitoring of reducing gases on the dome and airborne measurements of sulfur dioxide emission rates in the plume by correlation spectrometry, suggest that the combination of these two methods is particularly effective in detecting periods of enhanced degassing that intermittently punctuate the normal background leakage of gaseous effluent from Mount St Helens to the atmosphere. Gas events were recorded before lava extrusion for each of the four dome-building episodes at Mount St Helens since mid-1984. For two of the episodes, precursory reducing gas peaks were detected, whereas during three of the episodes, COSPEC measurements recorded precursory degassing of sulfur dioxide. During one episode (October 1986), both reducing gas monitoring and SO2 emission rate measurements simultaneously detected a large gas release several hours before lava extrusion. Had both types of gas measurements been operational during each of the dome-building episodes, it is thought that both would have recorded precursory signals for all four episodes. Evidence from the data presented herein suggests that increased degassing at Mount St Helens becomes detectable when fresh upward-moving magma is between 2 km and a few hundred meters below the base of the dome and between about 60 and 12 hours before the surface extrusion of lava. ?? 1994 Springer-Verlag.