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Report on Morne Plat Pays (Dominica) — November 1998

Morne Plat Pays

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 23, no. 11 (November 1998)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Morne Plat Pays (Dominica) Strong earthquake swarms, tremor

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1998. Report on Morne Plat Pays (Dominica) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 23:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199811-360110

Morne Plat Pays


15.255°N, 61.341°W; summit elev. 940 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

According to reports from local news sources and USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), earthquake swarms began on the island of Dominica on 11 September and continued intermittently into October. The Seismic Research Unit (SRU) of the University of the West Indies started monitoring the activity on 28 September and determined that [seismicity] was occurring in the S part of the island beneath Morne Patates volcano. By 23 October the [seismicity] had subsided to about two [earthquake] events per hour, with 10% large enough to be felt.

An earthquake recorded by SRU at 1018 on 24 September had its epicenter at 15.28°N, 61.37°W. It occurred at a depth of 15 km with a body-wave magnitude of 2.9 and a Richter magnitude of 1 to 3. A spasmodic (new events were starting before the previous were finished) sequence of activity started about 1500 on 22 October. These events were less than 6 km deep and had a maximum magnitude of 3.5 Richter and an intensity of MM V. On 23 October, an SRU aerial reconnaissance revealed no surface manifestations of the events (i.e., scarps, vents).

The strong [felt earthquakes] on 22-23 October were described as the longest and most intense in recent times. These [earthquakes] caused landslides and road closures, including the main road from the capital, Roseau, to the communities on the S end of the island. The SRU stated on 22 October that 27 was the maximum number of [events] recorded within a 24-hour period since 28 September, noting that the daily numbers were not as high as during the 1974 sequence.

Morne Patates, at the southern tip of Dominica, is an arcuate structure open to Soufriere Bay on the west. It was constructed within an irregular depression on the SW flank of a larger stratovolcano, Morne Plat Pays, whose summit is only 3 km NE. The latest eruptions occurred at about 450 ± 90 years BP (Roobol and others, 1983) from the Morne Patates lava dome just prior to European settlement. At least ten swarms of small-magnitude earthquakes have occurred since 1765. The most recent swarm, between March and October 1986, consisted of 10-30 recorded A-type volcanic shocks in about two hours. No eruptive activity followed any of these swarms and no systematic shallowing was documented to indicate upward migration of magma.

General References. Roobol, M.J., Wright, J.V., and Smith, A.L., 1983, Calderas or gravity-slide structures in the Lesser Antilles Island Arc?: JVGR, v. 19, p. 121-134.

Geological Summary. The Morne Plat Pays volcanic complex occupies the southern tip of the island of Dominica and has been active throughout the Holocene. An arcuate caldera that formed about 39,000 years ago as a result of a major explosive eruption and flank collapse is open to Soufrière Bay on the west. This depression cuts the SW side of Morne Plat Pays stratovolcano and extends to the southern tip of Dominica. At least a dozen small post-caldera lava domes were emplaced within and outside this depression, including one submarine dome south of Scotts Head. The latest dated eruptions occurred from the Morne Patates lava dome about 1270 CE, although younger deposits have not yet been dated. The complex is the site of extensive fumarolic activity, and at least ten swarms of small-magnitude earthquakes, none associated with eruptive activity, have occurred since 1765 at Morne Patates.

Information Contacts: Tina Neal, OFDA/USAID, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20523-8602 (URL: http://www.info.usaid.gov/ofda/ofda.htm); CaKaFete News, 25-12 Street, Canefield, Dominica (URL: http://www.cakafete.com/).