Eruption at La Soufriere remains effusive, lava dome continues growing, St. Vincent and the Grenadines


The eruption at La Soufriere volcano remains effusive, however, that could change given the historical activity at the volcano, UWI-SRC director Dr. Erouscilla Joseph said. At the moment, the eruption is localized close to the crater itself, but the volcano does have the potential for more powerful activity, and residents in the hazard areas should be vigilant.

The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC), the official source for information on earthquakes and volcanoes in the English-speaking Caribbean, is urging the people of St Vincent living with the potential risks from the ongoing eruption to listen to official sources, familiarise themselves with emergency protocols, and be prepared — if necessary — to evacuate. 

"Magma is gently oozing out through a vent and forming a dome," said Joseph.

"The possibility of this type of eruption going from effusive to explosive does exist. This volcano can show both types of eruptions. At this time, based on the information we have, the definitive timeline of this happening, or if it will happen at all, cannot be answered."

The alert level remains at Orange.

People living in areas close to the volcano should expect strong sulfur smells for several days to weeks, depending on changes in wind direction.

The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) continues to appeal to the public to desist from visiting the volcano, especially going into the crater, since doing so is extremely dangerous.

The latest estimated dimension of the new dome, as of January 27 — length 428 m (1 300 feet), width 217 m (712 feet), height 80 m (262 feet), the total estimated volume is 4.45 million m3 (157.2 million feet3).

On January 16, the height of the dome was 90 m (295 feet), length 350 m (1 150 feet), and width 160 m (525 feet).

The black areas in the photo are likely burnt vegetation caused by contact of growing dome of hot material (lava) and abundant low lying shrubs in the crater – January 18, 2021. Credit: UWI-SRC

New dome reaching the crater walls and giving off steam and gases on January 18, 2021. Credit: UWI-SRC

Geological summary

Soufrière St. Vincent is the northernmost and youngest volcano on St. Vincent Island. The NE rim of the 1.6 km (1 mile) wide summit crater is cut by a crater formed in 1812.

The crater itself lies on the SW margin of a larger 2.2 km (1.3 miles) wide Somma crater, which is breached widely to the SW as a result of slope failure.

Frequent explosive eruptions since about 4 300 years ago produced pyroclastic deposits of the Yellow Tephra Formation, which blanket much of the island.

The first historical eruption took place in 1718; it and the 1812 eruption produced major explosions.

Much of the northern end of the island was devastated by a major eruption in 1902 that coincided with the catastrophic Mont Pelée eruption on Martinique.

A lava dome was emplaced in the summit crater in 1971 during a strictly effusive eruption, forming an island in a lake that filled the crater prior to an eruption in 1979.

The lake was then largely ejected during a series of explosive eruptions, and the dome was replaced with another.

Featured image: La Soufriere volcano on January 11, 2021. Credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, TW

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