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Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 23 July-29 July 2008

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 23 July-29 July 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, 23 July-29 July 2008. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (23 July-29 July 2008)


Soufriere Hills

United Kingdom

16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


MVO reported no evidence of lava-dome growth at Soufrière Hills during 18-26 July. At least six eruptive events occurred during 20-22 July, each producing ash plumes that rose to altitudes of 2 km (6,000 ft) a.s.l. or lower. The ash plumes drifted W; ashfall was reported in Old Towne. Rumbling noises were heard in nearby areas and lightning strikes were observed. Small pyroclastic flows during 20-21 July traveled E down the Tar River valley with the largest one reaching within 500 m of the ocean. The Alert Level remained elevated at 4 (on a scale of 0-5).

On 26 July, seismicity increased significantly and then decreased. Seismicity increased again at approximately 0100 on 27 July and continued at a high level until about 0935 when a short series of eruptive events started. The first and largest ash-venting event of this series produced an ash plume that rose to an altitude of 2.5 km (8,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted W and NW. Ashfall was reported in Plymouth and St George's Hill. Two events that followed produced ash plumes to an altitude of 1.5 km (5,000 ft) a.s.l.

A partial lava-dome collapse began at 1127 on 28 July without any precursory activity. Part of the dome's W flank collapsed and generated pyroclastic flows that reached Plymouth and the sea. A few explosions during the collapse produced ash plumes; the largest ash plume rose to an altitude of 12 km (40,000 ft) a.s.l.

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.

Source: Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO)