Quiet Caribbean Volcanoes Suddenly Rumbling to Life

It has been decades since La Soufriere, Mt. Pelee erupted
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 31, 2020 7:20 AM CST
Quiet Caribbean Volcanoes Suddenly Rumbling to Life
Mt. Pelee is shown in this stock photo.   (Getty Images)

Volcanoes that have been quiet for decades are rumbling to life in the eastern Caribbean, prompting officials to issue alerts in Martinique and St. Vincent and the Grenadines as scientists rush in to study activity they say hasn’t been observed in years. The most recent warning was issued late Tuesday for La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a chain of islands home to more than 100,000 people. Officials reported tremors, strong gas emissions, formation of a new volcanic dome, and changes to its crater lake. The government warned those living near the volcano to prepare to evacuate if needed, declaring an orange alert that means eruptions could occur with less than 24 hours’ notice. La Soufriere last erupted in 1979; a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people.

That occurred shortly before Martinique's Mt. Pelee erupted and destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre, killing more than 30,000 people. Mt. Pelee too is now active once again, and in early December officials issued a yellow alert due to seismic activity under the mountain. It was the first alert of its kind issued since the volcano last erupted in 1932, reports the AP. While the eastern Caribbean is one long chain of active and extinct volcanoes, volcanologist Erik Klemetti said the activity at Mt. Pelee and La Soufriere are not related. "It’s not like one volcano starts erupting that others will,” he said, noting the activity is evidence that magma is lurking underground and percolating toward the surface, although he added that scientists still don't have a very good understanding of what controls how quickly that happens. "It’s science that’s still being researched."

(More volcano stories.)

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