I chose to write my case study on the Soufriere Hills volcano which is located on the island of Montserrat. I have always been fascinated by volcanic eruptions and wanted to learn more about the physical processes that cause such explosions to occur. The Soufrière Hills volcano is a complex stratovolcano which formed at the crossing of the Atlantic tectonic plate and the Caribbean plate with several lava domes forming its summit. In French, Soufrière translates to sulphur outlet. Soufrière Hills forms the northern portion of the miniature sized Island of Montserrat in the British Lesser Antilles. After a long period of dormancy, it became active again in 1995 as a new lava dome was built and has continued to erupt since. Due to its large scale eruptions, more than half of Montserrat has been left uninhabitable. The capital city of Plymouth was destroyed and caused widespread evacuations throughout the region. Nearly two-thirds of the population abandoned the island. The physical processes that caused the disaster involve the andesitic nature of the volcano, periods of lava dome growth, and dome collapse which resulted in pyroclastic flows, ash venting, and explosive eruptions. The island of Montserrat is built almost entirely of volcanic rocks. In size it is sixteen kilometers in length from north to south and ten kilometers in width from east to west. The island consists of andesitic lavas produced by dome-forming eruptions. The South Soufriere Hills are composed of basaltic-andesite rocks. Pyroclastic flows and fragments of volcanic rock ejected by explosions are the most significant hazards. Pyroclastic flows consist of fragments of hot lava and volcanic ash which move at high speeds of over sixty miles per hour or one hundred kilometers per hour. These explosions are intense and can cause a great deal of destruction and even death to those near it. Fragments of rock that are dispersed around the vicinity of the volcano can cause injury to humans as well as extensive property damage.
About half of the island of Montserrat, specifically the volcanic region, is now a designated exclusion zone. The volcano still remains active although it has not erupted since 2010. Although the tourism industry on the island was ruined during the aftermath of the natural disaster, it has recently experienced growth due to the popularity of the volcano site. The most recent eruption occurred in February of 2010 due to a collapse of the lava dome. Two explosions and numerous pyroclastic flows caused extensive damage to buildings. Since this eruption, there has been only ash venting and fumaroles. Today the Soufriere Hills volcanic activity sits at a low hazard level of two with falling rocks and frequent earthquakes. An observatory for volcanic activity was built to better monitor the site. There was construction of new roads as well as a new airport. The island people have even started to return to Montserrat with the decrease in volcanic activity.
A low pressure system is expected to move in through the Great Lakes region today causing strong to severe thunderstorms to develop in the area. Cities in Texas that are at high risk for severe thunderstorms include Dallas, Waco, and San Antonio. Potential hazards to watch out for include damaging winds, large hail, flash floods, and a possible isolated tornado. The cold front is projected to stall over Texas until Tuesday. With abundant moisture provided by the Gulf of Mexico, this could result in flash flooding. Expected rainfall in central and northeastern Texas is one to three inches and a maximum of five inches in some areas. This series of thunderstorms is influenced by a powerful low pressure system which brought heavy mountain snow and rain to the west recently. Warmer temperatures and an increase in moisture contributed to the development of severe thunderstorms.
The environmental destruction that resulted from Cyclone Debbie in Australia was far-reaching. The energy sector, notably the coal industry of Australia, was affected due to damage to mines and rails which caused disruptions to the transportation of coal. Australia is the world’s largest coking coal exporter and China’s major supplier. Due to the supply shortages after the storm hit Australia, China turned to the United States for coal. Coking coal is a vital ingredient in steel making and prices have since skyrocketed after the cyclone.
A major flood in Lima, Peru has caused landslides with flowing water and mud as the result of an unusual El Niño this year. The death toll from the natural disaster has risen to ninety. Residents were forced to leave their homes as some were completely destroyed or submerged in water, mud, and sediment. Those living on the land adjacent to the river were affected the most. There was extensive damage to infrastructure including bridges, railways, and other transportation routes. The intensity of the situation called for military aid. This weather event has been recorded as Peru’s worst flood in decades.
An avalanche struck in the French Alps at 6,900 feet in elevation off the ski runs killing four at a popular resort. Another avalanche occurred in Garfield County, Colorado killing a skier and injuring others. The natural disaster took place a few miles south of Vaughn Lake in a wilderness area in the remote back country.
Here are articles with details on the avalanche in France:
And an article about the avalanche in Colorado:
At Volcán Colima in Mexico, a photographer was able to capture a breathtaking and rare moment of lightning striking the volcano just as it erupted. The major explosion occurred on Friday, generating an ash column extending up to 2.5 miles high. Granted, being stationed near the location posed a hazard for the photographer but it was well worth the risk since he lived unharmed to share his experience. The Colima volcano complex is one of the most active and potentially hazardous in North America, having erupted over thirty times since the sixteenth century. There have been major explosive eruptions at the site during the 1900s resulting in environmental degradation of the surrounding land and terrain.
Below is a link to the article where you can view the images:
And here is an article with more information on the latest eruption of this volcano: