Volcanism on Montserrat (Lesser Antilles arc) has migrated southwards since the formation of the Silver Hills ~ 2.5 Ma, and has formed three successively active volcanic centres. The Centre Hills volcano was the focus of volcanism from ~ 1–0.4 Ma, before activity commenced at the currently active Soufrière Hills volcano. The history of activity at these two volcanoes provides an opportunity to investigate the pattern of volcano behaviour on an andesitic arc island over the lifetime of individual volcanoes. Here, we describe the pyroclastic stratigraphy of subaerial exposures around central Montserrat; identifying 11 thick (> 1 m) pumiceous units derived from sustained explosive eruptions of Centre Hills from ~ 0.8–0.4 Ma. Over 10 other, less well- exposed pumiceous units have also been identified. The pumice-rich units are interbedded with andesite lava breccias derived from effusive, dome-forming eruptions of Centre Hills. The stratigraphy indicates that large (up to magnitude 5) explosive eruptions occurred throughout the history of Centre Hills, alongside effusive activity. This behaviour at Centre Hills contrasts with Soufrière Hills, where deposits from sustained explosive eruptions are much less common and restricted to early stages of activity at the volcano, from ~ 175–130 ka. Subsequent eruptions at Soufriere Hills have been dominated by andesitic effusive eruptions. The bulk composition, petrography and mineral chemistry of volcanic rocks from Centre Hills and Soufrière Hills are similar throughout the history of both volcanoes, except for occasional, transient departures to different magma compositions, which mark shifts in vent location or dominant eruption style. For example, the final recorded eruption of Centre Hills, before the initiation of activity at Soufrière Hills, was more silicic than any other identified eruption on Montserrat; and the basaltic South Soufrière Hills episode marked the transition to the current stage of predominantly effusive Soufrière Hills activity. The compositional stability observed throughout the history of Centre Hills and Soufrière Hills suggests that a predominance towards effusive or explosive eruption styles is not driven by major compositional shifts of magma, but may reflect local changes in long-term magma storage conditions that characterise individual episodes (on 105 year timescales) of volcanism on Montserrat.
- Volcanic evolution
- Explosive Volcanism