Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 24 July-30 July 2002
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 July-30 July 2002
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2002. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 July-30 July 2002. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
Volcanic and seismic activity at Soufrière Hills during 19-26 July increased significantly in comparison to the previous week. A swarm of low-amplitude long-period earthquakes began on 19 July and increased in strength over the following 4 days. Observations of the lava dome on 21 July indicated that significant growth had recommenced, with the extrusion of a new lobe on the NE side of the summit region. Growth of the new lobe gave rise to rockfalls and small pyroclastic flows off the dome's NE flank. A notable event occurred on the morning of 23 July, when a minor collapse produced small but continuous pyroclastic flows for about an hour. These mainly flowed into the upper parts of Tuitt's Ghaut and down White's Ghaut for about half the distance to the coast. A few also flowed into the upper part of the Tar River Valley. A similar event, lasting for about 20 minutes, occurred in the early hours of the morning of 26 July. Sulphur dioxide flux was low at the beginning of the report period, but increased from 22 July onwards.
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.