Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 14 May-20 May 2003
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 14 May-20 May 2003
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 14 May-20 May 2003. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
Activity at Soufrière Hills remained high during 9-16 May. The direction of lava-dome growth switched to the NE during the report period. Rockfalls and pyroclastic flows traveled NE along the N side of the Tar River Valley and occasionally occurred in White's Ghaut. On 12 and 13 May several flows were observed on the lava dome's N and NW flanks in the area of Farrell's Plain and in the upper portions of Tyre's Ghaut. Pulses of vigorous ash venting were observed. SO2 emission rates fluctuated from moderate-to-high levels. The Washington VAAC reported that low-level ash plumes were sometimes visible on satellite imagery.
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.