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Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 15 January-21 January 2003

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 15 January-21 January 2003
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 15 January-21 January 2003. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (15 January-21 January 2003)


Soufriere Hills

United Kingdom

16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


The level of activity at Soufrière Hills fluctuated during 10-17 January, but generally declined from high to moderate levels. The active extrusive lobe on the lava dome's N side continued to grow, producing pyroclastic flows and rockfalls during the first days of the report period down White's Ghaut and the Tar River Valley, and to a lesser extent to Tuitt's Ghaut and the top of Tyre's Ghaut and Farrell's Plain. During 15-17 January almost all pyroclastic flows occurred in the Tar River Valley, with only minor rockfalls traveling down the dome's NE and N sides. SO2 emission rates were variable, with periods of heightened emission lasting a few hours followed by very low levels of emission. The Washington VAAC stated that several low-level ash plumes were visible on satellite imagery.

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)