Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 20 January-26 January 2010
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 20 January-26 January 2010
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2010. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 20 January-26 January 2010. 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 15-22 January activity from the Soufrière Hills lava dome was variable as dome growth continued. Cycles of vigorous ash venting, rockfalls, and pyroclastic flows occurred every six to eight hours. Light ashfall occasionally occurred in NW Montserrat. On 18 January, a small lava-dome collapse from the W side of the volcano generated a large pyroclastic flow that traveled 4 km down Gages Valley into Spring Ghaut, and into Aymer's Ghaut, reaching the sea at Kinsale to the S of Plymouth. Ash clouds associated with the pyroclastic flows rose to an altitude of 3 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l. Several houses in Kinsale seen from a helicopter on 22 January had been buried or were burning. The Hazard Level remained at 4.
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.