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Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 26 February-4 March 2003

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 26 February-4 March 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, 26 February-4 March 2003. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (26 February-4 March 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 increased slightly during 21-28 February in comparison to the previous week. During an observation flight on 27 February, scientists saw that lava-dome growth was concentrated towards the NE. Pyroclastic flows and rockfalls traveled down the lava dome's E and NE flanks via the Tar River Valley and Tuitt's Ghaut. There were also several periods of activity on the N flank, with pyroclastic flows at the top of Farrell's Plain. SO2 emission rates were moderate for much of the report period, with the exception of 22-23 February, when rates increased. 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)