Insights into processes and deposits of hazardous vulcanian explosions at Soufrière Hills Volcano during 2008 and 2009 (Montserrat, West Indies)



[1] During the Soufrière Hills eruption, vulcanian explosions have generally occurred 1) in episodic cycles; 2) isolated during pauses in extrusion, and 3) after major collapses of the dome. In a different eruptive context, significant vulcanian explosions occurred on 29 July 2008, 3 December 2008, and 3 January 2009. Deposits are pumiceous except for the 3 December event. We reconstructed the dispersal pattern of the deposits and their textural characteristics to evaluate erupted volume and vesicularity of the magma at fragmentation. We discuss the implications of these explosions in terms of eruptive processes and chronology, and the hazards posed by their sudden and often unheralded occurrence. We suggest that overpressurization of the conduit can develop over time-scales of months to weeks by a process of self-sealing of conduit walls and/or the cooling dome by silica polymorphs. This work provides new insights for understanding the generation of hazardous vulcanian explosions at andesitic volcanoes.