Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 2 December-8 December 2009
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 2 December-8 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, 2 December-8 December 2009. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
MVO reported that during 27 November-4 December activity from the Soufrière Hills lava dome continued at a high level. Pyroclastic flow activity was concentrated to the NE and W. The largest pyroclastic flows traveled NE down Tuitt's Ghaut on 27 November and 2 December, reaching within 200 m of the sea. Associated ash plumes rose to altitudes of 4.6-6.1 km (15,000-20,000 ft) a.s.l. Pyroclastic flows also traveled W down Gages Valley, S down the White River valley and Gingoes Ghaut, and into the upper reaches of Tyers Ghaut (NW). One descended the Tar River valley to the E. Rockfalls cascaded directly from the summit of the lava dome into Tyers Ghaut. Ash venting from the S part of the lava dome was noted several times. Ashfall containing accretionary lapilli, reported from Salem, Old Towne, and parts of Olveston on the evening of 27 November, was associated with a pyroclastic flow down Tuitt's and White Bottom Ghaut. 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.