Eruption of Soufriere Hills, Montserrat • Eruption of Soufriere

Eruption of Soufriere Hills, Montserrat

The Soufriere Hills Volcano on the island of Montserrat continues to erupt, and this true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image from the Aqua satellite on February 22, 2003, shows the thermal signature marked with a red outline. A plume of emissions—probably a mixture of smoke, ash, and water vapor—is drifting eastward from the summit. Lava domes are building up on the summit, triggering pyroclastic flows.
The volcano has been erupting off and on since 1995. Therefore when a series of long term, small-to-moderate intensity eruptions forced the evacuation of the southern half of the island. Also The capital city of the island was destroyed, creating social and economic upheaval. Montserrat is part of the Lesser Antilles chain of islands that have formed where the Atlantic tectonic plate and the Caribbean tectonic plate meet.

The Soufrière Hills volcano is an active, complex stratovolcano with many lava domes forming its summit on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. Many volcanoes in the Caribbean are named Soufrière (French: “sulphur outlet”). These include La Soufrière or Soufrière Saint Vincent on the island of Saint Vincent and La Grande Soufrière on Guadeloupe.

After a long period of dormancy, the Soufrière Hills volcano became active in 1995 and has continued to erupt ever since. Its eruptions have rendered more than half of Montserrat uninhabitable. Also destroying the capital city, Plymouth, and causing widespread evacuations: about two thirds of the population have left the island.

Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

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