Timing and emplacement dynamics of newly recognised mass flow deposits at ~8-12ka offshore Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat: How submarine stratigraphy can complement subaerial eruption histories

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • M. Cassidy
  • J. Trofimovs
  • M.R. Palmer
  • P.J. Talling
  • S.G. Moreton
  • R.N. Taylor

Colleges, School and Institutes


This contribution describes two mass movement deposits (total volume ~0.5km) identified in seven marine cores located 8 to 15km offshore southern Montserrat, West Indies. The deposits were emplaced in the last 35ka and have not previously been recognised in either the subaerial or distal submarine records. Age constraints, provided by radiocarbon dating, show that an explosive volcanic eruption occurred at ca 8-12ka, emplacing a primary eruption-related deposit that overlies a large (~0.3km) reworked bioclastic and volcaniclastic flow deposit, formed from a shelf collapse between 8 and 35ka. The origin of these deposits has been deduced through the correlation of marine sediment cores, component analysis and geochemical analysis. The 8-12ka primary volcanic deposit was likely derived from a highly-erosive pyroclastic flow from the Soufrière Hills volcano that entered the ocean and mixed with the water column forming a water-supported density current. Previous investigations of the eruption record suggested that there was a hiatus in activity at the Soufrière Hills volcano between 16 and 6ka. The ca 8-12ka eruptive episode identified here shows that this hiatus was shorter than previously hypothesised, and thus highlights the importance of obtaining an accurate and complete marine record of events offshore from volcanic islands and incorporating such data into eruption history reconstructions. Comparisons with the submarine deposit characteristics of the 2003 dome collapse also suggests that the ~8-12ka eruptive episode was more explosive than eruptions from the current eruptive episode.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013