La Soufrière (volcano)

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La Soufrière
Highest point
Elevation1,234 m (4,049 ft) [1]
Prominence1,234 m (4,049 ft) [1]
Coordinates13°20′N 61°11′W / 13.333°N 61.183°W / 13.333; -61.183Coordinates: 13°20′N 61°11′W / 13.333°N 61.183°W / 13.333; -61.183
La Soufrière is located in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
La Soufrière
La Soufrière
LocationSaint Vincent, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, West Indies
Mountain typeStratovolcano (active)
Volcanic arc/beltLesser Antilles Volcanic Arc
Last eruptionDecember 27, 2020 – Present[2]
Easiest routeFrom the windward (Atlantic) side

La Soufrière or Soufrière Saint Vincent (French pronunciation: ​[sufʁjɛʁ sɛ̃ vɛ̃sɑ̃]) is an active stratovolcano on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It is the highest peak in Saint Vincent, and has had five recorded explosive eruptions since 1718. The latest eruptive activity began in December 2020, with a series of explosive events beginning in April 2021.[3]

Geography and structure[edit]

At 1,234 m (4,049 ft), La Soufrière is the highest peak on Saint Vincent as well as the highest point in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.[1] Soufrière is a stratovolcano with a crater lake and is the island's youngest and northernmost volcano.[4] During periods of inactivity, visitors can view the volcanic crater by following a hiking trail that ascends through rainforest to the rim.[5]

Eruptive history[edit]

La Soufrière has had five explosive eruptions during the recorded historical period.[6][7] It violently erupted in 1718, 1812,[8] 1902, 1979, and 2021. A famous painting by J. M. W. Turner of the eruption on 30 April 1812 belongs to the Victoria Gallery & Museum, University of Liverpool.[9][10]

The Saint Vincent eruption of 6 May 1902 killed 1,680 people, just hours before the eruption of Mount Pelée on Martinique that killed 29,000. On St. Vincent, a further 600 people were injured or burned and 4,000 were left homeless.[11] The death zone, where almost all persons were killed, was mainly within Island Caribs habitat, an indigenous people of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. This last large remnant of Carib culture was destroyed as a result of the volcano.[12] By 1907, the volcano was considered inactive, and the crater lake had reformed.[13]

A minor event occurred in 1971,[14] altering the structure of the volcano's crater lake.[15][16]

An eruption on April 13, 1979 caused no casualties as advance warning allowed thousands of local residents to evacuate to nearby beaches.[17][18] The 1979 eruption created a large ash plume that reached Barbados, 160 km (100 mi) to the east of the volcano.[18] A newspaper report stated that two infants had died during the evacuation of some 1,500 people, though the report was not confirmed. Financial and material aid was provided by the United Kingdom and USA.[19]

2020–2021 activity[edit]

Volcanic plume seen on 9 April 2021 by the Sentinel-3B satellite

Increased volcanic activity was observed in December 2020; an effusive eruption formed a new lava dome inside the summit crater on 27 December.[20][21] Government officials began outreach efforts to residents in the area throughout December and January, in order to review evacuation plans in case volcanic activity at the volcano escalated.[18] The effusive eruption continued into January, during which time the lava dome had grown between 100 and 200 m (330 and 660 ft) wide and 900 m (3,000 ft) long,[22] a growth which continued in February as the lava dome was also releasing gas and steam plumes from its top.[23] By 22 March 2021, the lava dome was 105 m (344 ft) tall, 243 m (797 ft) wide and 921 m (3,022 ft) long. Sulfur dioxide emissions were being generated from the top of the dome.[24] On 8 April 2021, after a sustained increase of volcanic and seismic activity over the preceding days, a red alert was declared and an evacuation order issued as an explosive phase of the eruption was deemed to be imminent.[25][26]

An explosive eruption occurred at 8:41 AM local time on the following day, with an ash plume reaching approximately 8,000 m (26,000 ft)[27] and drifting eastward towards the Atlantic Ocean.[28][29] By then, approximately 16,000 people had evacuated the area surrounding the volcano.[18] Subsequent explosive eruptions, created by multiple pulses of ash, were reported in the afternoon[28][30] and evening of 9 April, according to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre.[30] Explosions continued over the following days, with plumes reaching nearby Barbados and covering the island with ash.[31] Residents were also faced with power outages and cut off water supplies, and the airspace over the island was closed due to the presence of smoke and thick plumes of volcanic ash.[32] There were further reports of continued explosive activity and pyroclastic flows.[33][34]

The eruption, rated as VEI-4 on the Explosivity Index, was comparable to the event that occurred in 1902.[35]

Support of inhabitants[edit]

Saint Lucia, Grenada, Antigua and Barbados all agreed to take in evacuees. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves encouraged people evacuating to shelters elsewhere on Saint Vincent to take the COVID-19 vaccine.[29] Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza announced via Twitter that his country would be sending humanitarian supplies and risk experts.[6] Carnival Cruise Lines sent the Carnival Paradise and Carnival Legend to each transport up to 1,500 residents to neighbouring islands. The cruise line Royal Caribbean Group sent Serenade of the Seas and Celebrity Reflection.[3]

Assistance and emergency financial support was being provided by several nearby islands, the United Kingdom and agencies such as the United Nations. The first significant offer of long-term funding, of US$20 million, was announced on 13 April 2021 by the World Bank.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "La Soufrière" on Retrieved 1 October 2011
  2. ^ "Soufrière St. Vincent". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b Deane, Kristin; Coto, Dánica (12 April 2021). "'Huge' explosion rocks St. Vincent as volcano keeps erupting". AP NEWS.
  4. ^ Andrews, Robin George (9 April 2021). "Science news - Why the volcano erupting in the Caribbean has such a deadly reputation". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 10 April 2021.
  5. ^ "St. Vincent sparkles in the Caribbean (2001)". Arizona Republic. 13 May 2001. p. 199. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b Tatiana Arias; Anne Claire Stapleton; Steve Almasy (9 April 2021). "St. Vincent on red alert for 'imminent' volcanic eruption". CNN. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  7. ^ "La Soufriѐre Eruption 2020/2021 - Media Fact Sheet" (PDF). ST. AUGUSTINE, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: SEISMIC RESEARCH CENTRE, THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES. 8 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Souffrier Mountain". The Edinburgh Gazetteer, or Geographical Dictionary, Volume 5. Edinburgh: Printed for Archibald Constable & Co., Hurst, Robinson & Co., London, and Thomas Ward, Philadelphia. 1822. pp. 680–682.
  9. ^ Draper, Amanda (19 March 2019). "Fine & Decorative Arts Collections". University of Liverpool. an oil painting by Turner showing a spectacular erupting volcano in the Caribbean that is requested for so many exhibitions around the world it has its own custom-made travel case.
  10. ^ "The Eruption of the Soufrière Mountains in the Island of St Vincent, at Midnight, on the 30th of April, 1812, from a Sketch Taken at the Time by Hugh P. Keane, by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851)". Art UK. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  11. ^ "St. Vincent volcano is now less active (1902)". The Fort Wayne Sentinel. 26 May 1902. p. 1. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  12. ^ Ober, Frederick Albion (1907). Our West Indian Neighbors: The Islands of the Caribbean Sea, " America's Mediterranean": Their Picturesque Features, Fascinating History, and Attractions for the Traveler, Nature-lover, Settler and Pleasure-seeker. J. Pott. pp. 375–.
  13. ^ "St. Vincent Volcano (1907)". Deseret News. 4 April 1907. p. 8. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  14. ^ "St. Vincent volcano erupts; Villages ordered evacuated (1979)". The Miami Herald. 14 April 1979. p. 81. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  15. ^ "St. Vincent has Volcano Alert (1971)". The Tampa Tribune. 23 November 1971. p. 1. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  16. ^ "Island's leader urges calm as St. Vincent volcano boils (1971)". The Miami Herald. 24 November 1971. p. 13. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  17. ^ "The eruption of Soufrière volcano, St Vincent April–June 1979". 1 November 1979.
  18. ^ a b c d Ernesto Cooke; Oscar Lopez (9 April 2021). "Volcano Erupts in Southern Caribbean". New York Times. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  19. ^ "Little Activity Recorded at St. Vincent Volcano (1979)". Daily Press. 16 April 1979. p. 5. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  20. ^ "New Dome Forms At La Soufriere, Experts Cannot Predict Eruption". News784. 29 December 2020. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Alert raised as SVG's volcano oozes magma". iWitness News. 29 December 2020. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  22. ^ "Scientists warn of possible La Soufriere eruption". NationNews. 25 March 2021. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Soufrière St. Vincent volcano (West Indies, St. Vincent): activity remains unchanged; growing lava dome continues in lateral direction". VolcanoDiscovery. 12 February 2021. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  24. ^ "Soufrière St. Vincent volcano (West Indies, St. Vincent): twice length and volume of new lava dome since last update". VolcanoDiscovery. 22 March 2021. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  25. ^ "Evacuation Order Given As La Soufriere Could Erupt In Hours Or Days". News784. 8 April 2021.
  26. ^ Hodgson, Martin (8 April 2021). "St Vincent orders evacuations as volcanic eruption appears imminent". the Guardian.
  27. ^ "Saint-Vincent : éruption impressionnante du volcan de la Soufrière, des milliers d'évacuations".
  28. ^ a b Hodgson, Martin (9 April 2021). "St Vincent rocked by explosive eruptions at La Soufrière volcano". the Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  29. ^ a b Coto, Dánica (10 April 2021). "Explosive eruption rocks volcano on Caribbean's St. Vincent". AP NEWS.
  30. ^ a b "La Soufriere Volcano Erupts On The Caribbean Island Of St Vincent". News784. 9 April 2021.
  31. ^ "Ash Covers St. Vincent and Nearby Barbados Town After a Weekend of Eruptions (PHOTOS)". The Weather Channel. 12 April 2021.
  32. ^ "St Vincent volcano: Power cuts after another 'explosive event'". BBC News. 11 April 2021.
  33. ^ Guzman, Joseph (12 April 2021). "Another explosive volcano eruption rocks St. Vincent". The Hill. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  34. ^ Klemetti, Erik (12 April 2021). "More and Larger Explosions Rock St. Vincent as La Soufrière Lets Loose Pyroclastic Flows". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  35. ^ "Overall Orange alert Volcanic eruption for Soufriere St. Vincent". Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS). Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  36. ^ "US$20m for St. Vincent volcano response from World Bank". NY Carib News. 13 April 2021.

External links[edit]