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

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 15 October-21 October 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 October-21 October 2003. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (15 October-21 October 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 during 10-17 October remained at low levels. Seismicity indicated that 12 rockfalls occurred as well as nine hybrid earthquakes. Lahars were also noted during periods of heavy rainfall. Sulfur-dioxide emissions increased from 600-900 tons per day at the beginning of the week to a peak of 1,900 tons on 13 October, and descended to 720 tons on 16 October. Low-level ash plumes were occasionally seen 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)