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Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 24 December-30 December 2002

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 December-30 December 2002
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2002. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 December-30 December 2002. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (24 December-30 December 2002)


Soufriere Hills

United Kingdom

16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Activity at Soufrière Hills during 20-27 December remained at high levels. The active extruded lobe on the N side of the lava dome continued to grow, giving rise to rockfalls and small-to-moderate pyroclastic flows across a broad sector of the NE and N flanks. Spectacular incandescence was observed on most nights. Growth was focused mainly towards the NNE, producing pyroclastic flows in White's Ghaut, the Tar River Valley, and Tuitt's Ghaut. Extrusion also occurred on the N side of the summit and occasionally on the NW. A large spine was pushed up at the back of the active extruded lobe during the night of 26-27 December. The Washington VAAC reported that on 28 December around 1130 a 3-km-high ash cloud generated from pyroclastic flows drifted over the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Geologic Background. The complex, dominantly andesitic Soufrière Hills volcano occupies the southern half of the island of Montserrat. The summit area consists primarily of a series of lava domes emplaced along an ESE-trending zone. The volcano is flanked by Pleistocene complexes to the north and south. English's Crater, a 1-km-wide crater breached widely to the east by edifice collapse, was formed about 2000 years ago as a result of the youngest of several collapse events producing submarine debris-avalanche deposits. Block-and-ash flow and surge deposits associated with dome growth predominate in flank deposits, including those from an eruption that likely preceded the 1632 CE settlement of the island, allowing cultivation on recently devegetated land to near the summit. Non-eruptive seismic swarms occurred at 30-year intervals in the 20th century, but no historical eruptions were recorded until 1995. Long-term small-to-moderate ash eruptions beginning in that year were later accompanied by lava-dome growth and pyroclastic flows that forced evacuation of the southern half of the island and ultimately destroyed the capital city of Plymouth, causing major social and economic disruption.

Sources: Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO), Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)