“We Got It Slightly Wrong”, The Eruption Has Just Gotten Started: Scientist

La Soufriere Volcano on the Caribbean island of St Vincent had its first explosive eruption of 2021 on April 9th. A total of 1,459 families have been displaced so far.

(By Ernesto Cooke) – Geologist Richard Robertson says even without a week of non-activity, his team would not want to say that Activities at La Soufriere has come to end as yet.

Robertson, speaking on NBC radio, said that La Soufrière had erupted longer than a week based on historical data.

“We are just into the first week, so to say it will end in two weeks will be very unusual; secondly, the amount of energy this volcano had at the beginning suggests that it has a lot more down there to come out”.

Robertson said if you look at the number of fresh materials that have come from explosions which they estimate to be a small amount if any, it tells you a lot.

“Past eruptions like 79 and 71 put out upwards of around 60 million cubic meters of materials, so past eruptions which started less vigorously had put out more materials, so to think now that this eruption is finished with the small amount of fresh materials would be wrong”, Robertson said.

The Geologist said the reality is the citizens would have to deal with La Soufriere for a little while.

“It might be that the way in which we deal with it is by getting accustomed to periodic explosions, I hope that is what it is, explosions that produce ash which goes off the coast, but there is no guarantee that will happen”.

At the very least, Robertson said that if the above scenario happens, it will destroy property and land close to the volcano itself.

“One of the things we saw when we went along the coast is that the forest from Wet Wallibou river up to Larikai has been destroyed, so even with just explosions that affect the north, it is going to do a lot of damage to the island”, he said,

Robertson said that the 2021 eruption of La Soufriere is more significant in magnitude than 1902, and it has just gotten started.

“I suspect in terms of materials that at the end of the eruption, it would be greater than what we had in 1979 because this eruption is bigger than 79, it looks closer in magnitude to the 1902 eruption, and it has just gotten started”, he said.

“The 1902 eruption destroyed about one-third of the island, from Georgetown over to Chateaubelair and areas north of that was essentially destroyed, and when I say destroyed I mean tress, land and lots of materials deposited, the place looks like it was bombed”, Robertson stated.

The Geologist says it looks like that is the direction La Soufriere is taking again.

“It has not reached there yet, the Eastern villages are still largely intact, but I suspect that it would not necessarily be the case when the eruption is over”. 

Robertson said that there might be reports from the team indicating a break in activities, but the eruption is far from over.

“I don’t think people should pause to mean that it’s finished, it’s still early days yet, and it may be a good thing we got it wrong yesterday; I got it slightly wrong on Thursday because it shows how uncertain this thing is”.

Robertson said his team has observed that La Soufrière is following a general pattern, and the details of that pattern may need tweaking as they go along.

The Geologist said persons need to avoid the Red Zone as it is very high risk.

“Even with an interval between explosions, people must not think they can go into the areas because the interval may change as it did; there is a certain margin error with these systems”.

St Vincent and the Grenadines remain on Red Alert.


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Comments (1)

  1. CONGRATULATIONS to Professor Robertson and his team for doing a remarkably good job! An X-ray can be used to see inside a person’s body and help a doctor recognize what is wrong with the person.
    However, there isn’t an instrument that can see from the surface, what is exactly happening under the earth. The compact nature of soil and rocks makes such impossible. So geologists depend on their monitoring devices that detect earthquakes, reveal the composition of gases etc, and make a judgment based on their findings. So no one should expect perfect predictions from geologists. Professor Robertson and his team has, and continue to do very well in keeping us informed and alert about the volcano. We all appreciate your work, professor, along with your team. Thanks for keeping us safe!