Monitoring La Soufrière – USGS Donates Equipment To UWI SRC

World map with locations of volcanoes (red triangles) at which the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) has responded during the more than 30 years since the program’s inception.

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 United States Geological Survey (USGS) Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP), funded by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has donated seismic stations and telemetry equipment to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWI SRC) to monitor La Soufrière.

According to a press release from the SRC, “the donated equipment will be used to build four seismic stations and radios to enhance communications on the island. Three of the stations are solar-powered installations with posthole seismometers, which are sensors designed for subsurface installation to optimize seismic performance while minimizing the cost and logistics of site setup.”

“The fourth station is a spider seismometer—a device designed for rapid deployment in high-risk locations where human exposure to hazards should be minimized, e.g., volcanic craters. USGS-USAID VDAP committed the donation after receiving a request from UWI-SRC following the effusive eruption, which was first detected on December 29, 2020.”

Image: University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre

“This equipment is needed as it allows us to densify the seismic network by placing them in locations where there are significant gaps, and the spider seismometer will fortify the near crater monitoring,” said UWI-SRC Instrumentation Engineer Lloyd Lynch.  In the event of escalated volcanic activity at La Soufriere, enhanced monitoring should allow our scientists to alert authorities with sufficient time to activate appropriate emergency responses such as evacuations.

Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. The Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, expressed his thanks to the UGSG VDAP and The UWI-SRC, stating, “The partnership between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) is vital in the monitoring of the La Soufriere volcano; the SRC is a tribute to our Caribbean civilization.  The contribution of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and its Volcano Disaster Assistance Programme (VDAP) to the work of the SRC in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is generous and deeply appreciated by our government and people.  Multilateral support across countries in every area of human endeavor is the way forward for humanity’s further upliftment. Thanks again to USGS, VDAP, and SRC! We love you!”

Image: University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre

The UWI-SRC, in partnership with the SVG National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), continues to enhance the monitoring of the La Soufrière volcano and actively seeks partnerships to bolster not only the various networks but to engage in data collection and sharing to understand the current activity better and plan for any scenario.

Who is the USGS-USAID VDAP?

The VDAP was formed in 1986 in response to the devastating volcanic mudflow triggered by an eruption of Nevado del Ruiz volcano. Since 1986, team members have responded to more than 70 volcanic crises at over 50 volcanoes worldwide and have strengthened response capacity in 12 countries. Based out of the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington (USA), the group consists of approximately 20 geologists, geophysicists, and engineers. Its guiding philosophy is to assist foreign partners in volcano monitoring and empower them to take the lead in mitigating hazards at their country’s threatening volcanoes.

The USGS-USAID VDAP program has also donated equipment to the SRC to assist in the Dominica volcanic crisis which began in 2018.

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)

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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