Anomalies Possibly Related To A Batch Of Magma

Just Below The Surface, Volcanologist

(By Ernesto Cooke) – Ever since the effusive eruptions began at La Soufriere on the Caribbean island of St Vincent in 2020, there has been a series of satellites circling the globe looking for temperature anomalies on the earth’s surface, preferably forest fires.

However, according to Dr Adam Stinton, a volcanologist at the Belmont observatory on St Vincent, any high heat source will generate thermal anomaly. 

On Tuesday 18th May, Stinton said they are still seeing these anomalies being detected at the volcano, indicating a heat source inside the crater.

“When the anomalies were first detected, it was due to lava reaching the surface; right now, these temperature anomalies may be related to a batch of magma that is sitting just below the surface of the summit crater, in the conduit which was created by the explosions back in April.”

On Monday, the UWI SRC, in their latest update said that thermal anomalies, indicating high temperatures inside the new crater, continue to be detected by the NASA FIRMS alert system.

The unit said, while only a few long-period earthquakes have been recorded in the last 24 hours when the cloud is high enough, persistent steaming is observable from the observatory at Belmont in Rose Hall.

Stinton continued, “We think that this batch of magma is very rich in gas and obviously will be still very hot, and that’s providing a source for steaming, and due to the high temperature it will create the anomalies.”

Stinton says persistent steaming is often associated with volcanic activity either as a precursor or remnant after the main phase of activity.

The volcanologist indicated that it is possible that the steaming may go on for a while, and the team will have to be vigilant about it.

On Monday, the UWI SRC stated that La Soufriere continues to be in a state of unrest, and escalation inactivity can still take place with little or no warning.

The thermal anomalies currently being detected on satellite could they indicate more explosive eruptions to come?

In terms of further explosions, Dr Stinton said that is one thing they are considering.

“It is possible that more explosions could occur in the future, which is why we are still here monitoring the volcano and keeping a close eye out for any sought of precursor activity which may indicate that the volcano might start erupting again.”

“There is always a small possibility that a new batch of magma could enter the system, change the conditions at the surface, and possibly result in more explosions. However, right now, we are not seeing any indication of that happening, but we are monitoring very closely.”

From satellite images, it appears that the new crater would be about 600-700 in diameters and could be 100 – 300 meters deep; Stinton said it’s a sizeable hole that has been excavated inside the floor of the summit.

The volcano is at alert level ORANGE.

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