La Soufrière Lava Dome Glows – No Explosive Eruption

Incandescent La Soufrière Lava Dome spotted on Saturday night, 16th January 2021 (Social Media)

Present La Soufrière Alert Level:ORANGEThere is a highly elevated level of seismic and/or fumarolic activity or other unusual activity. An eruption may begin with less than twenty-four hours’ notice.

The Director of St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), Michelle Forbes, has advised that NEMO has received reports of the dome of La Soufrière glowing on Saturday night.

She reported this development on NBC Radio SVG, stating that reports mainly came in from the Leeward side of St. Vincent. She stressed that there was no explosive eruption ongoing, and this was expected as the lava dome nears the top of the crater.

NEMO issued a statement at 10:36 PM local time advising that there are no evacuation orders in place.

The UWI SRC has also issued a statement at 10:56 PM concerning the glow.

We’ve received reports that villages on the flanks of #Lasoufriere have observed a glow coming from the volcano. The…

Posted by UWI Seismic Research Centre on Saturday, January 16, 2021

This incandesce was always expected based on reports from scientists monitoring the volcano. According to Professor and Geologist at the UWI SRC, Richard Robertson, if the rate of magma effusion continues as it has over the last several weeks, the dome will become “bigger and bigger,” potentially filling the space in the existing crater.

He noted that as the new dome gets close to the existing crater rim, the hot rock may become incandescent at night, allowing those from far away to see a glow from La Soufrière. Robertson reiterates that this is what you would see if the eruption’s effusive phase maintains over a sustained period of time.

Posted by RBS – Broadcasting on Saturday, January 16, 2021

Professor Robertson also spoke on NBC Radio SVG tonight. “As the dome gets bigger — and it has gotten bigger — people will begin, on the western flanks, especially in Chateaubelair, … will begin to see what we call in volcanology, incandescence or glowing of the dome.”

“And this is natural because the volcano has been erupting and has been erupting hot material, creating a mountain of very hot materials. The materials have temperatures of 500 or 600 degrees Celsius. These materials naturally give off a glow.”

He said it is difficult to see the glow during the day because of the brightness of the sun, but it is visible at night.

“You hadn’t seen it so far because it was below the rim. But as the mountain (the new dome) inside gets closer and closer to the (rim of the volcano), you begin to see more of the glow. Eventually, when it gets high enough, they will actually see the mountain (dome) itself. And I will like to prepare them for the fact that as it gets bigger, you are gonna see the glow more.”

He said one way in which the dome grows is by pushing out material at the outer flanks of the volcano. The material, in turn, spills off. 

He said this results in rockfalls and during the day, persons will see dust as the rock falls.

“But if you see it in the night, it looks like rivers of red, fiery material, because, again, it is a hot material, and it glows in the night because there is no sun.  So the dome is glowing. It is not erupting explosively. It is glowing as it has been doing since it first came out, but it is just that people couldn’t see it.  “It is natural, it is what is expected,” Robertson said.

He said residents of the country should continue with their lives, as they have been doing since the effusive eruption was made public.

“We have been monitoring it. We have been showing you pictures. It’s doing what it has been doing for the last few weeks. It hasn’t fundamentally changed,” he said of the volcano, which is 4,048 feet high.

“So, you should listen to the authorities, listen to what NEMO says, what their guidance is. If it goes to an explosive phase, you will hear it, you will see it, you will see different things than simply glowing, and you will clearly know that there is a need to take action. You will hear the NEMO on it; you will hear the authorities tell you that you need to evacuate,” Robertson said.
He, however, emphasizes that the volcano is not at that stage.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t get to that stage in the near future. It may, it is possible, but what you are seeing is the dome growing, and that’s natural. You should remain calm. It is going to become more spectacular as time goes on. It is going to happen more, and it will happen even if it doesn’t go explosive. If it goes explosive, it would be a different kind of site that you see in the night,” Robertson said.  

New observations have discovered the new La Soufrière volcano is now about three-quarter (3/4) the height of the pre-existing 1979 dome. The dome’s growth continues with the lateral spreading of the material towards the east and west in the “moat” areas of the existing 1979 dome. As of January 16th, 2021, the new dome is 340 meters long, 160 meters wide, and 90 meters tall.

Volcanic Hazard Map for the La Soufrière Volcano, St. Vincent (UWI SRC/NEMO)
Volcanic Hazard Map for the La Soufrière Volcano, St. Vincent (UWI SRC/NEMO)

The National Emergency Management Organisation reminds the public that no evacuation order or notice has been issued. NEMO continues to appeal to the public to desist from visiting the La Soufrière Volcano until the scientists advise that it is safe.

Official information will originate from St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Emergency Management Organization and the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center.

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