Montserrat is a volcanic island in the Caribbean. On the southern end of the island is the Soufriere Hills volcano. The volcano, which first erupted about 100,000 years ago, has been dormant for centuries. The volcano took the islanders by surprise when it began to erupt again in 1995. Since then life on the island has changed greatly.
Montserrat island is located in a 50 million year old subduction zone. This is an area where one of the earth’s oceanic plates is forced beneath a more buoyant plate. Fluids rich in water and dissolved minerals are taken out of the crust that is being driven into the earth’s mantle by the extreme temperatures and pressure. When the fluids rise they cause the overlying mantle to melt and form magma. The magma erupts along the subduction zone and eventually builds up on itself and forms volcanic islands.
The volcano began erupting again on July 18, 1995 after remaining silent for almost four hundred years. The volcano has erupted numerous times since then. The southern part of the island has been evacuated three times. There are about 3,200 people living on the island today. Of the 8,00 that fled most plan to return to the island once the volcano settles down. The problem is that no one knows when that will be. It could be a long time before the people return to the island.
Volcanic activity cannot be predicted. Different things happen with different volcanoes and none are the same. Looking back at the volcanoes recent history, it may be safe to assume that the volcano will continue to erupt for a number of years. No one can actually be certain what exactly the volcano will do in the years to come. It may decide to settle down for another four centuries. The only thing that anyone can really do is watch what happens and try to keep the people on the island safe.
Since the volcano began erupting in 1995, the lives of the people on the island have changed greatly. Soufriere Hills was once covered in thick forests and Montserrat was big on agricultural trade. Now many of the island’s villages including all of the villages within eight kilometers of the volcano have been evacuated. Some of the other village people still live in fear of being rained on by pumice pebbles or their houses or land being hit and destroyed extremely hot rock the size of basketballs landing like bombs on their property. More than 2/3 of the people that lived on the island have fled because of the volcano. Soufriere Hills has had a devastating effect on the lives of the people of Montserrat.
Who knows what is to come in the future for Montserrat. The volcano will most likely keep erupting for some time. Hopefully the people who live on the island will stay safe. If the volcano does die down, then maybe life will begin to return to normal on the island. Most of the 8,000 who fled will return and probably will try to rebuild the island. The future of Montserrat is unpredictable but we can hope that it will be good.
1.Fall Out: Eye On The Volcano, National Geographic, 1998, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/98/volcanoes/.