Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 23 May-29 May 2001
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 23 May-29 May 2001
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2001. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 23 May-29 May 2001. 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 18-25 May volcanic activity increased in comparison to the previous week. The main increase in activity occurred during 19 to 21 May when many large long-period and hybrid earthquakes were recorded. Low-level convective ash clouds generated during this increase in activity rose less than 2 km a.s.l. Observations confirmed that the main growth area was still concentrated in the S sector of the lava dome. A large volume of new talus had built out above the White River, to the S of the volcano, and on 24 May near-continuous rockfalls and small pyroclastic flows were observed. Sulfur dioxide flux increased, with an average of 700 metric tons per day measured on 21 May, considerably higher than the average flux during previous weeks of 100 to 200 tons per day. Due to the increase in activity the daytime entry zone was closed beginning on 21 May.
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.