La Soufriere has produced pyroclastic flows, rock falls, ash fall, rivers of mud, earthquakes and lightning over the past week.
But there is at least one deadly threat that the people of St Vincent are relatively safe from – waves of molten lava pouring from the crater and vaporizing everything in its path.
So why is La Soufriere not producing magma?
We asked The UWI’s Seismic Research Unit.
A scientist said: “The threat of lava flows has not been mentioned because the types of eruptions we see in the islands of the Lesser Antilles are very different because of the type of magma that we have. Our lava is not the kind of running lava that you see in Iceland and Hawaii. Ours is silica rich and very viscous so it does not flow very far away from the vent. It tends to form domes, and not flows.”
Explosive eruptions, as at La Soufriere, produces a mix of volcanic ash and fragments called tephra, and not lava flows.
So how long will this go on?
“Based on historical activity from this volcano, eruptions can last months, even up to a year”, says the Seismic Research Unit.
Is this ongoing activity as large as, or comparable to 1812, 1902, 1979?
“Instrumental recording of seismic activity on St Vincent only took place within the last 60 years by the Seismic Research Centre. Nothing with respect to 1812, 1902 would have been (on) record. It would be available through the geological study of the island and this was done by several researches including Professor Richard Robertson, who actually lived through the 1979 eruption”, says the Seismic Research Unit.
Incidentally, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was also in St Vincent and working as a scientist monitoring the 1979 eruption.
Rowley is a volcanologist with a Doctorate in Geology, specialising in geochemistry.
There has been no reported deaths or injuries from La Soufriere as of Friday morning, a week into the eruptions. There have been eight explosive eruptions as of Friday morning.
Professor Richard Robertson, the lead scientist in the team monitoring the La Soufriere and advising the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, says that the explosive eruptions are likely to continue, with damage being done to the land and properties closest the crater.
"...the amount of energy this volcano had at the beginning suggests that it has a lot more down there to come out”, he said.