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Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 21 October-27 October 2009

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 21 October-27 October 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, 21 October-27 October 2009. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (21 October-27 October 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 16-25 October activity from the Soufrière Hills lava dome was at a high level; a new lava dome first reported on 9 October continued to grow in the summit region on the W side. The new dome was considerably higher than the older lava dome that is to the E. Seismicity was high and cycles of low-level tremor occurred at regular intervals. Several pyroclastic flows descended the White River to the S and reached the sea. Small pyroclastic flows traveled NE down Tuitts Ghaut and W down Gages valley, but seldom to the N down Tyers Ghaut or E down the Tar River valley. Rockfalls occurred on the S and SE flanks of the lava dome. Multiple ashfalls were reported in inhabited areas, and lahars traveled NW down the Belham valley. During 23-25 October, seismicity decreased and ash plumes generated by pyroclastic flows drifted W. The Hazard Level remained at 3.

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)