La Soufrière Update #30: Changes Detected At Wallibou Hot Springs

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 National Emergency Management Organization, in their latest bulletin, advised that an investigation was conducted at the Wallibou Hot Spring area on Sunday 7th February 2021 based on a report of irregular temperatures and unusual gas smells there. Some gas sampling was done by Dr. Thomas Christopher, the temperature was taken at different points and some liquid samples were collected for further analysis.

In an interview with local media in St. Vincent, Dr. Thomas Christopher says his team took water samples from the springs and recorded a sulfur smell. “I measured the emissions with the multigas equipment and found the presence of hydrogen sulfide”. Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical compound that is a colorless chalcogen hydride gas with a foul odor. It is poisonous, corrosive, and flammable.

Location of the Wallibou Hot Springs and the La Soufrière Volcano, St. Vincent
Location of the Wallibou Hot Springs and the La Soufrière Volcano, St. Vincent

While inhalation of gases has become poisonous over time, the current concentrations are not at that level at this time. In the interview, Dr. Christopher indicated that the temperature has increased at the Wallibou Hot Springs, with more gas than usual. Usually, temperatures in the spring would hover near 38°C. Now, temperatures of 43°C are being recorded.

Thomas said the hot springs is not a dangerous place to be based on what the team found. Samples taken would give the scientific team a clear idea if the La Soufrière Volcano magma is making contact with water at the springs. “There is the subtle difference that if you are familiar with the place, you might realize”, he said.

How would La Soufrière’s eruptions affect hot springs?

The effusive eruptions at La Soufriere could trigger several things with hot springs around the country. Dr Thomas Christopher says that some of them may shut off and in some cases new ones created.

“ It is going to restructure the whole dynamics of the system”. Wallibou Hot Springs is located on the Western flank of the La Soufriere Volcano.

NEMO has also advised that the deformation network is functional. Successful hits of the Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM) target were recorded on the volcano rim from Richmond Vale, Troumaca, Rose Hall, Belmont, and Cherry Hill, Chateaubelair. Base line data is being collected. The EDM Network is used to assist with measurements of deformation associated with the flanks of the volcano.

NEMO staff also conducted a drive-through in the Cumberland and Coulls Hill communities on Tuesday 9th February 2021. The purpose of this drive-through was to update residents on the state of the La Soufrière Volcano, and to provide information on evacuation procedures and individual preparedness.

There have been no major changes concerning the dome and its ongoing vegetation damage due to acidic gases. The new dome continues to grow with the lateral spreading of material towards the north and south, with a preferred northward growth observed. Damage to vegetation, from acidic gases emitted from the growing dome, downslope of the summit continues to be observed.

There is NO ‘explosive’ eruption at the La Soufrière volcano at this time. La Soufrière continues to have effusive eruptions, as hot magma reaches the surface at extreme temperatures. This appears in the night as fire or a bright red glow above the crater. As the dome gets higher and closer to the crater’s rim, this phenomenon will continue to be visible on clear nights.

The alert level remains at Orange. The volcano continues to exude magma on the surface and steam can still be observed from the Belmont Observatory. Persons living in areas close to the volcano should expect strong sulfur smells for several days to weeks, depending on changes in wind direction.

The NEMO is reminding 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 and especially going into the crater since doing so is extremely dangerous.

The @uwiseismic and NEMO continue to advise access to the #LaSoufriere Volcano is strictly prohibited at this time….

Posted by Trinidad and Tobago Weather Center on Thursday, January 14, 2021

According to the SRC, the new volcanic dome is extremely dangerous for those in close proximity as it can explode at any time without warning. People have been killed in this way. This warning comes as images from a birthday photoshoot surfaced on social media.

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)

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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