La Soufrière Dome Grows, Alert Level Remains at Orange

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.

On Wednesday 30th December 2020, there has been no significant change in activity at the La Soufrière Volcano according to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center (UWI SRC).

What has changed today?

The National Emergency Management Organization conducted an aerial reconnaissance on Wednesday afternoon. There was no significant changes at the La Soufrière Volcano but the effusive eruption continues where magma oozes to the surface and the dome increased in size.

This confirmed what scientists at the UWI SRC observed on satellite imagery, as the crater remains unsafe for close, visible inspection.

Aerial reconnaissance of the La Soufrière Volcano on December 30th, 2020 showing the new dome still erupting, increasing in size. (NEMO St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Aerial reconnaissance of the La Soufrière Volcano on December 30th, 2020 showing the new dome still erupting, increasing in size. (NEMO St. Vincent and the Grenadines)

A group of scientists from the Seismic Research Center, University of the West Indies St. Augustine Campus led by Vincentian Professor Richard Robertson will arrive in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Thursday 31st December 2020 onboard the Regional Security System (RSS) Aircraft. The Scientists will install instruments to strengthen the monitoring mechanism System so that more accurate and timelier scientific advisory on the activities at the La Soufriere Volcano can be provided.

What remains the same?

Aerial reconnaissance of the La Soufrière Volcano on December 30th, 2020 showing the new dome still erupting, increasing in size. (NEMO St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Aerial reconnaissance of the La Soufrière Volcano on December 30th, 2020 showing the new dome still erupting, increasing in size. (NEMO St. Vincent and the Grenadines)

The La Soufrière Volcano alert level remains at orange. Persons living in areas close to the volcano which include communities from Fancy to Georgetown and Belle Isle to Richmond are asked to remain alert and listen to all advisories from the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO).

There is no evacuation orders in effect. Residents of St. Vincent should desist from visiting the La Soufrière Volcano until scientists advise it is safe to do so.

What are the authorities doing?

Aerial reconnaissance of the La Soufrière Volcano on December 30th, 2020 showing the new dome still erupting, increasing in size. (NEMO St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Aerial reconnaissance of the La Soufrière Volcano on December 30th, 2020 showing the new dome still erupting, increasing in size. (NEMO St. Vincent and the Grenadines)

The Executive Committee of the National Emergency Management Organisation, which comprises Technical Officers from the various Government Departments, Private Sector and Non- Governmental Organizations, met today at NEMO’s Conference Room to activate plans if the level of seismicity increases and evacuation becomes necessary.

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has activated the Regional Coordination Plan as per the protocol which corresponds to the Orange Volcano Hazard Alert Level.

In keeping with the usual preparatory arrangements for potential hazard impact responses, the CDEMA Coordinating Unit has placed the following Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) Teams on ALERT:

  • CARICOM Disaster Assessment and Coordination (CDAC)
  • CARICOM Operational Support Team (COST)
  • Rapid Needs Assessment Team (RNAT)
  • Caribbean Disaster Relief Unit (CDRU)

What’s next?

The Seismic Research Centre will be sending a team of three people to St. Vincent later today with additional monitoring equipment to collect more data.

This data will be integral in determining whether this effusive eruption may turn into an explosive event or gradually subside as an effusive event. As the SRC will need to collect data over the next several weeks to even months, it will not be an immediate determination. At this time, there is no way to tell if the event will become a large, explosive eruption.

Based on history, La Soufrière erupts every 100 years, +/- 30 years, with the last eruption recorded in 1979. There is also no reliable precident for determining the pattern of this eruptive event. The last eruption events began with an effusive event in 1971-1972, then years later in 1979, the eruption became explosive and immediately subsided with an effusive eruption. There is no way, at this time, scientists can predict which way this eruption may go until there is more data.

Is La Soufrière Linked To Other Volcanoes in the Lesser Antilles?

The short answer is no. The process of subduction across the Lesser Antilles is the region islands north of T&T (except for Barbados) are volcanic islands, but that’s where the link stops. Seismicity associated with different volcanoes is not linked. Hence, an eruption of La Soufrière does not mean an eruption of Kick’em Jenny or any other Lesser Antilles volcano is imminent. If one occurs, it will likely be an unlucky coincidence.

The SRC is responsible for monitoring all seismic and all volcanological hazards across the English-speaking islands of the Eastern Caribbean. Presently, the ongoing seismic unrest in Dominica is returning to background levels. There are occasional volcanic-tectonic quakes in St. Lucia.

Is La Soufrière a threat to T&T?

There is no threat to T&T and the remainder of the Lesser Antilles, with the obvious exception being St. Vincent.

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