Update on La Soufrière volcano by Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams and Director of the Seismic Research Centre, Professor Richard Robertson – April 12, 2021. (PMO)

The current activity from the La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent and The Grenadines shows similar patterns to its eruption in 1902.

That is according to Director of The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, Professor Richard Robertson, who shared the comparisons between the current volcano activity and that of the 1902 eruption, during a La Soufrière emergency update tonight.

Professor Robertson pointed out that it is still evolving, but at present, the amount of energy and manner in which the volcano is erupting is bigger than the 1979 eruption. “It is looking like the scale of the eruption is more in tune with what happened in 1902,” he said.

In addition, Professor Robertson stated that in 1902 the explosive component of the eruption went on for up to a year.  “It didn’t mean you had explosions all the time; you didn’t have explosions every day. But you had days in which you had intense activity, while you had other days, sometimes months in which nothing happened. That’s what happened in 1902 and this one is looking like it’s more like 1902,” he explained.

Given the similar activity between now and 1902, the Professor forecasted that the explosive eruption activity “could go on for months or could be a year”.

Director of The UWI Seismic Research Centre, Professor Richard Robertson said the present volcanic activity at La Soufrière volcano shows similar patterns to its eruption in 1902. (Photo: The UWI Seismic Research Centre)

He continued: “In 1979, It wasn’t that long. In 1979, it really was about two months, and during that time, you had a couple of explosions. This one is looking more like 1902, we’re hoping that we are wrong and that it’s actually more like 1979, so the period is less. But the fact is that you have to bear with the possibility that it could be as bad as 1902 and therefore prepare for that.”

Professor Robertson said the La Soufrière volcano’s dome was destroyed by an explosive eruption this morning, removing the confinement which housed the magma. 

“Once the magma has a lot of gas in it, it breaks the rock into finer particles, and these finer particles are the same dust that get into the atmosphere higher and get caught by winds that bring it to Barbados,” he explained.

He continued: “We hope and we think that given how it’s behaving it gets rid of some of that, and once it gets to the stage where it has gotten rid of enough of it, it may slow down, for want of a better word, and seal itself for a little while, before it then builds up sufficient pressure to go into a period of activity.”

Professor Robertson stressed that people need to be aware that the effects from the volcano, for instance, ash plumes, could go on for a long period and they should be prepared to deal with them. 

sheena.forde-craigg@barbados.gov.bb

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