Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — 6 September-12 September 2023
Smithsonian Institution / US Geological Survey
Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 6 September-12 September 2023
Managing Editor: Sally Sennert.
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2023. Report on Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) (Sennert, S, ed.). Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 6 September-12 September 2023. 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 a very small increase in activity at Soufrière Hills during 1-8 September was characterized by small rockfalls coincident with volcano-tectonic earthquake activity and occasional small, low-frequency, volcanic earthquakes. The seismic network recorded 27 volcano-tectonic earthquakes spilt between two swarms recorded on 6 and 8 September. Minor rockfall activity and volcano-tectonic seismicity began at about 2100 on 7 September and was ongoing. Rockfalls took place on the lava dome based on seismic data, though their locations could not be visually confirmed. The swarm on 8 September was followed by a long-period earthquake at 0742, and a few additional smaller events. Access to the Upper Belham valley and Plymouth were suspended for the day out of an abundance of caution. Sulfur dioxide emissions averaged 436 tonnes per day on 1 September (measured from a boat) and 367 tonnes per day on 6 September (measured by helicopter). The Hazard Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 1-5).
Geological Summary. 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.