Montserrat Volcano Observatory

Morning Report
Report for the period 16:00 13 January
to 07:00 14 January 1997
The current alert level is ORANGE

Activity at the Soufriere Hills volcano has continued at a high level overnight, with another pulse of pyroclastic flow activity from 10:15 pm to 11:05 pm. This pulse was not as strong as the pyroclastic flows that occurred yesterday at around midday. No observations of these latest pyroclastic flows were possible, but observers at Harris Lookout and Whites shortly after saw glowing from the top of the Castle Peak chute, which has been the source of many rockfalls and small pyroclastic flows in recent days. Several areas of continuous glowing were also seen, along with several moderate-sized rockfalls in the Castle Peak chute. It is thought that the Castle Peak chute was the source of last night's pyroclastic flows. Yesterday's pyroclastic flows came from a chute to the south of Castle Peak.

There was no further ash fall from the pyroclastic flows at the Police checkpoint in Lover's Lane, but it is likely that more ash was deposited in Plymouth.

Following last night's activity, the level of activity dropped, although occasional large rockfalls were still occurring in the early hours. There was a swarm of volcano-tectonic earthquakes last night before the start of the pyroclastic flows. Another small swarm started this morning at about 5 am.

The summit of the volcano is cloudy this morning so that no visual observations have been possible so far. A helicopter observation flight will be underway shortly.

Many parts of the eastern dome remain unstable, and liable to collapse. Further pyroclastic flows are expected today and during the next few days. The wind direction is the same as yesterday, and so most of the ash will be deposited to the south of Foxes Bay unless the conditions change. If a major dome collapse happens, it would probably build up over a period of several hours, and would produce large pyroclastic flows in the Tar River valley and heavy ash fall downwind of the volcano. Should the collapse be very large, then an explosive eruption is possible, in the same way that it followed a major dome collapse on September 17/18. At the moment the scientists are confident that zone E, which includes Corkhill and the airport, remains safe. The Tar River area is extremely dangerous, and should not be entered in any circumstances.

Montserrat Volcano Observatory