La Soufrière ash plumes on Barbados a potential year-long impact

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Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Bridgetown, Barbados

By Caribbean News Global contributor

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — Grantley Adams International Airport Inc., has advise the public that due to the ongoing ash fall resulting from the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent, the Grantley Adams International Airport will remain closed until noon, Friday, April 16, 2021.

La Soufriere, St. VIncent Scientific update – 14/04/21 6:00 am

  1. Seismic activity at La Soufrière, St Vincent showed a similar pattern to yesterday.
  2. Small long-period earthquakes continued to gradually increase in number after the explosive activity at 6:30am on 13 April.
  3. These continued until another episode of explosive activity started at 8:30 pm on 13 April.
  4. This generated continuous seismic tremor which lasted for four to five hours.
  5. After the tremor had died down, small, long-period earthquakes were again recorded, again slowly growing in numbers.
  6. The explosions which occurred pulsed for >40 minutes and produced pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) which, appear to have gone down valleys that drain towards the Rabacca River on the east coast of the island.
  7. PDCs are hot (200°C-700°C), ground-hugging flows of ash and debris.
  8. Lahars (mudflows) were reported in the Sandy Bay Area on 13 April.
  9. The volcano continues to erupt explosively and has now begun to generate pyroclastic density currents.
  10. Its current pattern of explosions appears to be episodic (stop-and-go).
  11. Over the past 24 hours the time between each explosion has increased.
  12. Explosions and accompanying ashfall, of similar or larger magnitude, are likely to continue to occur over the next few days impacting St. Vincent and neighbouring islands such as Barbados, Grenada, Saint Lucia.
  13. The volcano is at alert level Red
  14. Visit the International Volcanic Hazard Health Network for volcanic ash information resources: ivhhn.org/information

Director of The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, Professor Richard Robertson, during a La Soufrière emergency update on April 13, indicated that ash plumes could continue to affect Barbados for up to a year.

At present, the amount of energy and patter the volcano is erupting is bigger than the 1979 eruption. “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.

“However, it is looking like the scale of the eruption is more in tune with what happened in 1902,” he said. 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.”

“As long as the volcano is erupting explosively … and it is now in an explosive state and currently the time period for being in this state is unclear; given past activity patterns of La Soufrière and other volcanoes like it, this period could vary from a few weeks to a few months to as long as up to a year given past experience,” Professor Robertson explained. “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 continued. “They may or may not be as intense as you had them in the past, but for your sake, our sakes, this volcano goes back to sleep as quickly as possible, but there is no indication currently that it is heading in that direction.”

Why Barbados would continue to be affected by ash plumes?

“The current activity that’s going on involves episodic explosive episodes in which explosive activity or venting of particles are dispersed by periods of relative quiet. Now that kind of pattern has been sustained since it started, what has varied is the intensity of the explosions they have either been stronger or weaker. […] Profession Robertson emphasised.

“It seems to us that it will continue with this episodic behaviour that remains for a period of longer quiet, but at some point, it’s going to pick up again, and then it’s going to pick up such that you have these very high altitude plumes that can generate ash. […] As long as La Soufrière is erupting, Barbadians have to expect that … at some times during the explosive eruptive periods that you will have ash, that could go on for days, weeks or up to a year or more or a little bit more than that.”

“The material that is being produced and … the destructive work that it is doing, is actually going to help the soil; help rejuvenate things, and that it actually will be positive in the end,” he said.

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