(Last updated May 12, 2002)
Around 0700 UTC on December 26, 1997 (Boxing Day in Britain and its territories), the Soufriere
Hills volcano on Montserrat produced a large eruption that devastated the southwest sector of the
volcano. In addition to the effects on the ground, the eruption produced an ash cloud easily seen
in satellite imagery.
This is a GOES-8 infrared image take at 0845 UTC December 26, or about 1.5-2 hours after the eruption.
Notice the white blob over Guadelopue (the butterfly-shaped island in the right center of the image) that
extends north-northwest and south-southeast to the adjacent islands (Montserrat and Dominica, respectively).
This is the high level ash from the eruption, which is being blown south-southeast by upper level
winds (roughly 8-10 miles above the surface). (75K GIF)
This is a GOES-8 visible image taken at 1145 UTC December 26. Volcanic ash is clearly visible from
west of Montserrat across Dominica, Martinique, and St. Lucia (the two islands south of Dominica) to over
and north of Barbados (the island by itself east of the main island chain). This distribution is caused
by different wind directions at different heights. The ash west of Montserrat has been blown westward
by low level trade winds (from the surface to 1-2 miles up). The ash near Barbados was initially blown
south-southeast by upper level winds, then was blown eastward as the wind flow moved through an
upper level trough. The rest of the ash plume has been blown south to southwest by winds in the
middle levels. (171K GIF)
This is a GOES-8 visible image take at 1845 UTC December 26. The ash has continued to spread
and now extends from south and southeast of Barbados across St. Vincent (the island west of Barbados)
to just south of the Virgin Islands. The plume continued to spread across the southeast Caribbean,
and some ash was still visible 30 hours after the eruption. (177K GIF)
These images are courtesy of NOAA's Geostationary Satellite
This is a composite of imagery from two polar orbiting satellites. The upper two panels are
from the NOAA-14 satellite, which passed over the ash plume at 1800 UTC December 26. The left panel
is an enhanced combination of the visible and two infrared channels which shows the plume better than
a plain visible image. The ash plume extends from west of Montserrat across St. Vincent to well
southeast and east of Barbados. The right panel is made from taking the difference in the signal
received by two infrared channels. This is useful in highlighting the thicker parts of the plume,
which are seen over St. Vincent and west-southwest of Montserrat. The lower two panels are from the
Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer on the NASA Earth Probe satellite, which passed over the plume at
1530 UTC December 26. The left panel shows aerosol measurements, whch detect the small rock particles
in the plume. The right panel shows measurements of sulphur dioxide (a common volcanic gas) in the
plume. (This image courtesy of the NOAA Special Events Imagery
The Montserrat Volcano Observatory
has written a detailed
report on this eruption with images. Additionally,
Bill Innanen maintains a site with images of
Montserrat and the volcano, including the area
affected by this eruption.
Sites with archived imagery or movies of the eruption include
Michigan Tech University and
GOES Hot Stuff.
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