The archipelago of the eastern Caribbean or Lesser Antilles, form a bent chain of volcano islands follow me the east margin of the Caribbean Sea that stretches ~850 kilometres from Grenada in the southern to Sombrero (north the Anguilla) in the north. Together a curved chain of volcanic islands, i m sorry has formed as a an outcome of magmatism linked with subduction, is described as one ‘island arc’. Not all the archipelago of the Lesser Antilles, however, have actually ‘live’ (likely to erupt again) volcanoes. Phibìc of Dominica the island arc splits into two, and only the west arc the islands, well-known as the ‘Volcanic Caribbees’ is active. The eastern arc is described as the ‘Limestone Caribbees’. Volcanism in the Limestone Caribbees died out plenty of millions of years earlier as the axis that volcanism moved westwards due to transforms in subduction geometry, and also the old volcano landscape has due to the fact that been eroded and also covered through coral and limestone.

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Volcanoes in the eastern Caribbean


The Lesser Antilles includes 21 known, ‘live’ (likely come erupt again) volcanoes spread throughout 11 volcanically energetic islands, and also volcanic eruptions are among the key hazards the threaten the eastern Caribbean region. During the previous 200 years end 30,000 human being have been eliminated by volcanic task in this region and currently around one million human being are threatened by the direct effects of volcanic eruptions and about two and a half million an ext by connected phenomena such as volcanic ash fall. Many of the archipelago of the Lesser Antilles have a solitary live volcano that might erupt later (e.g. Nevis, Montserrat). The other islands are more complex, of i m sorry Dominica is the most too much with no much less than nine live volcanoes.

How are earthquakes and also volcanoes formed in the eastern Caribbean


Historical volcanic activity in the Lesser Antilles

Historical eruptions in the Caribbean are typically regarded together those the have developed since Europeans worked out the an ar and started producing written accounts that events. This duration varies across the region; in many islands european settlement began in the beforehand 1600’s, yet was intermittent for most of the 17th Century, transforming hands several times between various european powers. Several at an early stage records the life in the islands encompass unsubstantiated reports the volcanic activity (e.g. In St. Kitts and St. Vincent). Vice versa, radiocarbon dates of number of eruptions (e.g. In Montserrat and Saba) suggest that volcanoes in these islands were energetic during the historical duration for the region, yet no written accounts have actually been found. There is, therefore, suspicion both in defining the ‘historical period’ in the region and additionally with quantifying the actual variety of historical eruptions. Ideal estimates, however, show that there have been at least 34 historical eruptions the volcanoes in the Lesser Antilles, 21 of this have developed since 1900; ripe on land indigenous volcanoes in Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Vincent, Montserrat and Dominica, and also 14 native the submarine volcano Kick-‘em-Jenny, ~9 km north the Grenada.

The 21 many recent eruptions have shown a wide range in both eruptive format and impact on the regional population. Several have been phreatic (steam) in nature, one a an extremely minor phreatic eruption in Dominica in 1997 the went mainly unnoticed and also two much more serious phreatic eruptions in Guadeloupe in 1956 and 1976-1977, the latter resulted in a 3.5 month evacuation of end 70,000 people.


Crest of the fifty percent Way Ridge, 450 metres above sea level ~ above 31st may 1902 mirroring the destructive impact of hefty ashfall ~ above vegetation following eruption of La Soufrière, St.Vincent in 1902. (Photo: T. Anderson, York Museum Collection)


The 1902 eruption that La Soufrière in St. Vincent was an explosive magmatic eruption that resulted in the deaths the at the very least 1,500 people; in contrast, the 1971-1972 eruption in ~ this volcano to be wholly effusive, and also resulted in the formation of a lava dome confined in ~ the summit crater. The 1979 eruption that La Soufrière to be explosive adhered to by dome growth, and although over there was part property damage no stays were lost. The 1902-1907 eruption of Montagne Pelée in Martinique is ranked among the world’s most destructive in terms of devastation of lives and also property. This eruption was qualified by both effusive dome formation and explosive dome collapse, and also led to the full destruction of the town of St. Pierre and the deaths of roughly 30,000 people. A comparable eruption arisen from Montagne Pelée several years later, in between 1929 and also 1932, this time through no reported casualties.

The 15 submarine eruptions the Kick-‘em-Jenny have actually been dominantly explosive, although in at least one situation a lava dome was extruded. The Soufrière Hills Volcano in Montserrat has been in energetic eruption due to the fact that 1995, and has had a major impact top top the island’s population. The eruption is qualified by durations of dome-growth interspersed through dome collapse and also minor explosions. The Soufrière Hills Volcano is the just volcano currently erupting in the east Caribbean. In addition to these volcanic eruptions, historic volcanic earthquake swarms have actually been observed in almost all of the eastern Caribbean islands through live volcanic centres.


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Pyroclastic flow at Soufrière Hills Volcano in Montserrat


While hurricanes are much more common in the eastern Caribbean no hurricane has actually ever fully destroyed the funding of an eastern Caribbean island (that is come say, made it fully uninhabitable) while volcanic eruptions have actually done therefore twice:

to St. Pierre, Martinique in 1902 andto Plymouth, Montserrat in 1997

Additionally, while property damage levels from major hurricanes generally variety from 10-25%, property devastation levels (and through extension, casualties) in the east Caribbean resulted in by volcanic eruptions method 100% in the many severely impacted areas. Thus, the only appropriate activity that deserve to be take away to protect against this is a complete evacuation of the locations likely to it is in affected. Because that this reason, publicly education and also awareness in advance is an essential to effective disaster preparedness and mitigation program in the it equips the public with the crucial information to have the ability to make informed decisions and also to facilitate (rather than obstruct) catastrophe response activity in the occasion of a crisis.

In assessing the hazard posed by volcanoes to eastern Caribbean countries, the is advantageous to evaluation data on actual volcanic calamities over the previous 300 year (see tables below). Store in mind the there have gone to least 15 various other eruptions that have not resulted in large numbers that deaths or destroyed enough residential property to it is in ranked as disasters.

Type that EventNo. That deaths caused
Volcanoes> 30,000
EarthquakesApprox. 15,000
HurricanesApprox. 15,000
TsunamisApprox. 50

Actual volcanic calamities in the eastern Caribbean end the previous 300 years

YearVolcanoNature of catastrophe (costs in year 2000 dollars) *
1718La Soufrière (St. Vincent)Major explosive eruption. Unknown number of casualties amongst indigenous Caribs.
1812La Soufrière (St. Vincent)Major explosive eruption. About 80 deaths. Considerable damage come the street industry. Economic price unknown.
1902La Soufrière (St. Vincent)Major explosive eruption. Around 1,600 deaths. Substantial damage come the sugar industry. Economic cost estimated in ~ US$200,000,000.
1902Mt Pelé (Martinique)Major explosive/effusive eruption. Over 30,000 deaths. Finish destruction of the city the St. Pierre. Other damages to farming considerable. Financial cost about US$1,000,000,000.
1976 – 77Soufrière (Guadeloupe)Minor phreatic (steam) eruption. No casualties however economic price estimated in ~ US$1,000,000,000
1979La Soufrière (St. Vincent)Moderate explosive eruption. No casualties but economic losses come the order of US$100,000,000
1995 – presentSoufrière Hills (Montserrat)Moderate explosive/effusive eruption. About 20 deaths. Complete destruction that capital, Plymouth. Economic price not however estimated yet in overabundance of US$500,000,000. Finish destruction the the economy.

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2021La Soufrière (St. Vincent)Major explosive/effusive eruption. Damage to areas in the phibìc of the island. No deaths. ~18,000 persons evacuated

Volcanic eruptions and also earthquakes share the common feature that they happen fairly infrequently but when they do happen the results can be devastating. By regrettably coincidence the median interval in between such disasters is around comparable with one human being lifetime so the the memory of the previous occasion would have actually just about faded indigenous public consciousness when the following one occurs. Keeping public preparedness because that geologic catastrophes through the long, quiescent periods, therefore, presents a far-reaching challenge.