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Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 14 May-20 May 2008

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 14 May-20 May 2008
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2008. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 14 May-20 May 2008. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (14 May-20 May 2008)


Soufriere Hills

United Kingdom

16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


MVO reported that activity at Soufrière Hills increased during 9-19 May. The seismic network recorded 17 rockfalls. An eruptive event on 13 May produced an ash plume to an altitude of 3 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l. and was accompanied by a single long-period earthquake. A blue sulfur dioxide plume was also noted. Ash emissions from two areas in the Gages vent to the W were observed on 15 May, but may have started on 14 May. The resultant ash plume rose about 200 m above the lava dome and drifted W. A small rockfall was noted and gentle roaring noises were reported. A new fumarolic area was seen on the SE side of Chances Peak. Ash emissions from Gages vent continued on 16 May. The Alert Level remained elevated at 4 (on a scale of 0-5).

Based on information from MVO and observations of satellite imagery, the Washington VAAC reported that steam plumes with small amounts of ash continued during 17-19 May and drifted N and WNW.

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)