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Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 7 January-13 January 2009

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 7 January-13 January 2009
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2009. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 7 January-13 January 2009. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (7 January-13 January 2009)


Soufriere Hills

United Kingdom

16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


MVO reported that during 2-3 January activity from the Soufrière Hills lava dome increased drastically. On 2 January, an energetic pyroclastic flow and associated surge traveled down Tyers Ghaut (NW) and reached the upper part of Belham River. On 3 January, after a period of elevated seismicity, two explosions produced ash plumes to altitudes greater than 10.7 km (35,000 ft) a.s.l. Ashfall affected most of the island at elevations of 1.2 km (4,000 ft) a.s.l. and above. The explosions had significant "jet components" to at least 500 m above the dome. In-column collapses resulted in pyroclastic flows that traveled W and reached Plymouth (about 5 km W). After the second explosion, the level of activity decreased dramatically and remained low through 9 January. The Hazard Level remained at 4.

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)