Soufriere Hills continues having a big winter

A pyroclastic flow from the February 5 vulcanian eruption of Soufriere Hills. Image courtesy of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO).

UPDATE: See some amazing images of the recent eruptive activity over on Stromboli Online. {Hat tip to the Volcanism Blog via Eruptions reader CK.}

One event that didn't eat much coverage over the weekend, at least here in the U.S., was the large eruption and explosions at Soufriere Hills on Montserrat. The volcano has had a resurgent winter since have a quiet summer of 2009. This weekend's eruption produced an ash plume that reached ~6.1 km / 20,000 feet - which has been happening quite a bit over the last month or so. However, this eruption produced an large pyroclastic flow that reached the former capitol of Montserrat, Plymouth and 500 meters (not miles as one report states) into the sea. This eruption would technically be a vulcanian eruption according to MVO and prevailing winds prevented ash or lapilli from falling on the eastern half of Montserrat. This eruption was likely related to the collapse of the growing summit dome. MVO has posted a thermal video of a previous vulcanian event on January 7-8, showing the collapse/explosion from the dome and the pyroclastic flow generated - both made of hot (>500 C). The latest information on the current activity from Soufriere suggests that the central western part of the dome was growing steadily before the vulcanian event over the weekend, but there is yet to be another observation of the dome to see if that has changed.

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Hey Erik, I mentioned Stromboli online for Monserrat Feb 6 under that long list of posts! The problem is the site addy didn't post so people could click on it.

I will say they are awesome pictures by Marco Fulle. He does a great job of taking pictures of volcanoes. I bet the one where the pyroclastic flow was headed right for the boat he was on was a bit scary. It stopped before getting to the sea...that time.

I was looking for something in the news and I couldn't find anything. It was all Super Bowl. Oh well, just goes to show you what is most important on the media's mind sometimes.

The webcam views of the SH eruption on Feb 5 appeared to be smaller than the explosions (as many as 4-5 per day) on the following two days. On the 6th, the webcam failed after it was completely enveloped in pyroclastic flows in mid-afternoon. The restored camera image was clear of debris on Sunday, but streaked and dirty on Monday and today, from the additional repetitive explosive eruptions.

There are two further sites that have brand-new and tremendously spectacular photos of Soufrière Hills, taken during what seems to have been a group enterprise with Marco Fulle of Stromboli Online. One is Thorsten Boeckel's "From Etna to Stromboli" (which recently has added photos of an amazing number of active volcanoes, some of them very poorly known like Ibu and Slamet in Indonesia):
The other is M. Rietze's "ALPE", and this one also has a few video clips:

They are stunning images at stromboli online. I always thought a PF was the result of an eruption cloud (or part of it) losing buoyancy and collapsing but these photos show what looks more like a lava flow, which it obviously can't be, given its speed, and if it is at least partly lava, which is what it looks like, why is it exploding into ash as it races down the slope? Is this what you call a density flow? A hot river of pyroclastic material that has enough gas in it and turbidity too I guess to generate such huge ash clouds? Any help in sorting out my confusion would be much appreciated.

By bruce stout (not verified) on 09 Feb 2010 #permalink

"The earth's rotation acts on these (polar) unsymmetrically deposited (ice and snow) masses and produces centrifugal momentum that is transmitted to the rigid crust of the earth. The constantly increasing centrifugal momentum produced this way will, when it reaches a certain point, produce a movement of the earth's crust over the earth's body, and this will displace the polar regions towars the equator ... Their ponderous weight pushes against the crust and this immense pressure, combined with the greater incline in the earth's tilt [another changing factor of the orbital geometry] forces the (entire) crust to shift ..." Albert Einstein, 1953.
Because the planet earth is a closed ecosystem, the amount of ice that accumulates on the poles reaches its maxmum weight every thirteen thousand years at which point severe geological disturbances occur, starting with earthquake swarms and tectonic plate shifts and ending with the entire crust's displacement.

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By Tom Dennen (not verified) on 09 Feb 2010 #permalink

um did anyone since 2005 die in any volcanoe eruptions if anyone did, did you find any remains at all our were there and like humans body parts or do they just all burn with it because im jusy curios or........ when lava hits water does the water come comtmminated like create acid or just dangerous because over the years many say that lava cant get very far with out burning out to an exact point i mean like how far can it actually get wouldn't it be kool if a tidle wave hit a volcanoe it could happen????????// lexxi lonechild i forbid volcanoes there bad for the enviroment

By allexis lonechild (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

Yes, tidal waves hit volcanos, and yes its kool, but it makes the water muddy and you wouldnt want to drink it then.
They find people all the time that were too close when the volcano went off. They are all burned up. They found a whole city in Italy that was too close and they all got burned up, but it didnt hurt very long. That was 2000 years ago so the scientists think it was kool.