Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 24 May-30 May 2006
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 May-30 May 2006
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2006. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 May-30 May 2006. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
During 24-30 May, lava-dome growth continued at Soufrière Hills. On 23 May, the new lava dome was observed for the first time since the 20 May dome collapse. The new lava dome was darker than the previous lava dome and on 25 May, reached a height of 767 m. Rockfalls were observed on the NE and SW sectors of the new lava dome. The largest of several active vents were on the W side of the dome and were responsible for ash-venting episodes.
According to the Washington VAAC, ash-plume emissions continued during 24-30 May. On 24 May, emission of small volumes of gas and thin ash plumes continued and drifted W and SW. A pilot near St. Croix (NW) reported that the ash/haze layer reached an altitude of 1.5 km (5,000 ft) a.s.l. Ashfall was reported at San Juan (NW) airport. During 25-30 May, ash plumes reached an altitude of 4.6 km (15,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted W and NW. On 24-26 May, a hot spot was visible on infrared 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.