Seismic Activity May Indicate An Imminent Eruption – NASA

(By Ernesto Cooke) – Researchers with Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program, a NASA department, said they have recently detected increased seismic activity on two Caribbean islands, which may indicate an imminent volcanic eruption – the La Soufrière volcano on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Mt. Pelée on Martinique.

In the case of St Vincent magma reaching the surface is forming a growing dome, while the volcano is also releasing gas and steam.

On Friday NEMO the National Emergency Management Organization said the dome that broke through the crater floor, on December 27, 2020, on the south-west perimeter of the existing dome, continues to grow within the crater of La Soufrière and has an ellipsoid shape with growth expanding in a westerly direction.

NASA in a publication on January 8th 2021 said, the activation of EASDP would aid risk reduction efforts for a potential volcanic eruption, as they closely monitor the region. 

In St Vincent, a team from the UWI-SRC on Friday did a visual observation of the mountain’s, including observing gas emissions and taking still photos and videos. These will help determine the location to place instruments to monitor the flow of gas.

Seismic data from the Wallibou station on St Vincent is now streaming into the Seismic Research Centre (SRC).

A webcam providing live feed was installed on January 3, 2021, at the Belmont Observatory. 

A second camera, at Georgetown, was successfully installed and Camera and weather station installations, at the summit, are still being pursued.

The NASA program responded to an initial request for assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) coordinated by the Applied Sciences SERVIR program and is now working directly with the USGS Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP).

In December 2020, Short wave infrared data from the European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite identified a thermal anomaly in the La Soufrière volcano, indicating magma close to the surface.

The La Soufriere volcano’s alert level remains at Orange, and the National Emergency Management Organisation is reminding the public that no evacuation order or notice has been issued.

Roughly 20,000 citizens will be in the path for immediate evacuation if an eruption occurs. These citizens are located in the extreme north of the island.

Shelters in the country’s central and southern belts and hotels will be used to house persons once evacuation becomes necessary.

In the event of evacuations, all the necessary COVID-19 protocols will be adhered to.

Further Reading On 1979 Eruption

The 1979 eruption began with only a concise period of unrest, starting with a strong local earthquake on April 12.

Eruptive activity began with a series of short-lived explosions, which lofted a series of ash plumes, high into the sky on Good Friday, April 13, 1979.

This heralded two weeks of vigorous activity that peaked with an 18 km high plume on April 17, and ended, with the cessation of measurable seismicity on April 29.

NASA Programme

The Disasters program area of NASA’s Applied Sciences Program uses Earth-observing data and applied research to improve the prediction of, preparation for, response to and recovery from hazards and disasters around the world.



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