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The Soufrière Hills volcano (French "Sulphur" Hills) is an active complex stratovolcano with many lava domes forming its summit on the Caribbeanmarker island of Montserratmarker. After a long period of dormancy it became active in 1995, and has continued to erupt ever since. Its eruptions have rendered more than half of Montserrat uninhabitable, destroying the capital city, Plymouthmarker, and causing widespread evacuations: about two thirds of the population left the island.Seismic activity had occurred in 1897–1898, 1933–1937, and again in 1966–1967, but the eruption that began on July 18, 1995 was the first since the 17th century. When pyroclastic flows and mudflows began occurring regularly, Plymouth was evacuated, and a few weeks later a pyroclastic flow covered the city in several metres of debris. A large eruption on June 25, 1997 resulted in the deaths of nineteen people. The island's airport was directly in the path of the main pyroclastic flow and was completely destroyed. Montserrat's tourist industry was also destroyed. However, it is now regenerating. The governments of the United Kingdom and Montserrat led the aid effort, including a £41 million package provided to the people of Montserrat; however, riots followed as the people protested that the British Government was not doing enough to aid relief.

The volcano is andesitic in nature and the current pattern of activity includes periods of dome growth, punctuated by brief episodes of dome collapse which result in pyroclastic flows, ash venting, and explosive eruption. On December 24, 2006, streaks of red from the pyroclastic flows became visible. On January 8, 2007, an evacuation order was issued for areas in the Lower Belham Valley, impacting an additional 100 people.

Most devastating eruption was at Soufriere Hills Volcano starting at 11:27 pm local time on Monday 28 July 2008 without any precursory activity. Pyroclastic Flow lobes reached Plymouth. These involved juvenile material originating from collapse of the eruption column. Further, a small part of the eastern side of the lava dome collapsed generating a pyroclastic flow in Tar River Valley. Several large explosions were registered, with the largest at approximately 11:38 pm. The height of the ash column was estimated at 12 kilometres (40,000feet) above sea level.

The volcano has become one of the most closely monitored volcanoes in the world since its eruption began, with the Montserrat Volcano Observatory ( taking detailed measurements and reporting on its activity to the government and population of Montserrat. The observatory is operated by the British Geological Survey under contract to the Government of Montserrat.

Results: in the October 9, 2008 issue of the journal Science suggest that two interconnected magma chambers lie beneath the surface of the volcano on Montserrat – one six kilometers below the surface and the other at 12 kilometers below the surface. They also show a link between surface behavior and the size of the deeper magma chamber.

Soufrière Hills is also the namesake of the Jimmy Buffett song "Volcano".


Image:soufriere hills ash.jpg|
Ash Plume from Soufrière Hills, March 10, 2004.
Image:Montserrat Salem Eruption.jpg|
September 22, 1997 10:46 AM Eruption of the Sufriere Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.
Photo by Gary Mark Smith.
Image:Destroyed Airport Montserrat.JPG|
The airport destroyed by the eruption of The Soufrière Hills Volcano.
Image:SoufriereHillsVolcano.jpg|The volcano erupting.


  1. UK citizenship for island outposts | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited
  2. Multiple Magma Reservoirs Affect Volcanic Eruption Cycles Newswise, Retrieved on October 9, 2008.
  3. Jimmy Buffett "Live in Anguilla" CD/DVD.

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