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Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 25 November-1 December 2009

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 25 November-1 December 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, 25 November-1 December 2009. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (25 November-1 December 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 20-27 November activity from the Soufrière Hills lava dome continued at a high level. Activity increased on 21 November and periods of tremor were detected on 23 November. Lava extrusion during this period shifted from the W side of the lava dome to the summit region. As a result, abundant pyroclastic flows traveled NE down Tuitt's Ghaut on 23 November for the first time in several weeks. On 24 November there was a period of 120 minutes of continuous pyroclastic flow activity, followed by 90 minutes of semi-continuous activity. The pyroclastic flows traveled W down Gages Valley and into Spring Ghaut, and NE down Tuitt's Ghaut and Whites Bottom Ghaut reaching Tuitt's village. Associated ash plumes rose to an altitude of 6.1 km (20,000 ft) a.s.l. On 26 November, a pyroclastic flow that descended the Tar River valley was caused by collapse of part of the old, pre-2009 lava dome. Ashfall occurred in Old Towne and parts of Olveston. Incandescent material seen in a photograph taken at night on 29 November traveled down the flanks of the lava dome in several areas. 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)