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Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 29 January-4 February 2003

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 29 January-4 February 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, 29 January-4 February 2003. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (29 January-4 February 2003)


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 was at moderate levels at the beginning of the report period (24-31 January), but increased late in the evening of 25 January and remained high for the remainder of the week. Growth of the active extrusion lobe continued on the N side of the lava dome. The direction of growth was generally towards the NNE, although the focus of rockfall and pyroclastic-flow activity varied from day to day. Numerous small-to-moderate pyroclastic flows occurred in White's Ghaut, the Tar River Valley, and Tuitt's Ghaut. A pulse of activity occurred at midday on 30 January, during which pyroclastic flows simultaneously descended several flanks of the lava dome traveling to the Tar River Valley, White's Ghaut, Tuitt's Ghaut and W to Fort Ghaut. SO2 emission rates fluctuated throughout the week. 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)