Volcanic Activity in Montserrat - Detailed Case Study

Very detailed case study on volcanic activity in Montserrat, including:

  • Tectonic hazards and causes
  • Map illustrating location & tectonic situation of Montserrat
  • Evidence of pre-1997 volcanic activity
  • The 5 volcanic hazards associated with Montserrat
  • Physical impacts
  • Global impact
  • Human impacts
  • Economic benefits
  • Response to tectonic hazards
  • Measurements of volcanic activity that can be used to indicate increased risk of eruption
  • Current status of the volcano
  • How the island has adapted and is prepared for future eruptions
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A2 Geography 6th September 2010
Unit 4: Geographical Research Option 1: Tectonic Activity and Hazards
Case study: Volcanic Activity in Montserrat
1) Tectonic Hazards and Causes
a) Montserrat is situated on a destructive plate boundary where the Caribbean plate
and the Atlantic plate are converging towards each other. This is the tectonic
situation which would give rise to volcanic activity. The plate movements are caused
by convection currents because of the heat in the mantle. As the plates move
towards each other, the Atlantic plate (Oceanic) is much denser than the Caribbean
plate (continental), and as a result subducts beneath the Caribbean plate. As the
Oceanic crust descends, sediments, water and the heat of the mantle cause it to
melt. The molten rock is less dense than surrounding crust and therefore rises to the
surface. In addition, when the plates initially collided, cracks would have been made
in the continental plate (Caribbean). The immense pressure of the magma
underneath needs to get out somewhere and therefore the cracks in the Caribbean
plate would be an ideal escape route. As the magma rises through the cracks up to
the top, and increases in pressure, it eventually reaches the Earth's surface and
erupts as a volcano. However, Montserrat June 1997 eruption wasn't just any normal
eruption. It consisted of massive pyroclastic flows (Molten lava, ash and mud) which
travelled at temperatures in excess of 500°C.
b) Map illustrating the location and tectonic situation of Montserrat
This map shows the location of Montserrat in the Caribbean, as well as the tectonic
situation (the name of plates and the direction of movement). Source: Digby TBook.
Chris Cartwright

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A2 Geography 6th September 2010
Unit 4: Geographical Research Option 1: Tectonic Activity and Hazards
The map is coloured coded to show the progress of the eruption and its impact on
the island. Source: GCSE Bitesize, Geography, Plate Tectonics, Volcano.
c) There is evidence pre-1997 of volcanic activity on Montserrat. Before 1995, the
Soufriere Hills had been dormant for over 300 years. In 1995 the volcano began to
give off warning signs of an eruption, such as small earthquakes and eruptions of
dust and ash.…read more

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A2 Geography 6th September 2010
Unit 4: Geographical Research Option 1: Tectonic Activity and Hazards
incinerate any organic material such as vegetation and killed 19 people, as
well as causing structural damage to buildings and runways.
II. Lahar: A fast moving slurry of ash and water and other debris. This is what
buried and destroyed properties, vegetation and crops.
III. Ash and Tephra fall: Particles of shattered rock and hot lava fragments
including pumice.…read more

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A2 Geography 6th September 2010
Unit 4: Geographical Research Option 1: Tectonic Activity and Hazards
c) continued ... Another impact is that the ash cloud reached the island of Antigua
and caused a blackout for a period of days as it passed over.
Finally, the eruption cost the UK £41 million in aid in order to help the victims of the
eruption.…read more

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A2 Geography 6th September 2010
Unit 4: Geographical Research Option 1: Tectonic Activity and Hazards
which is where 25% of the population will be housed. Finally, a major benefit is that a
strategic fuel depot has been constructed, with enough petrol, diesel and cooking
gas to last for two months, should the island's supplies be cut off by disaster.…read more

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A2 Geography 6th September 2010
Unit 4: Geographical Research Option 1: Tectonic Activity and Hazards
b) The following are measurements of volcanic activity that can be used to indicate
an increased risk of an impending eruption:
An extensive seismograph measures the earthquake strength and depth
around the volcano ­ earthquakes indicate movement of magma inside a
volcano.
o Short period earthquakes are caused by the fracturing of brittle rock as
magma forces its way upward.…read more

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A2 Geography 6th September 2010
Unit 4: Geographical Research Option 1: Tectonic Activity and Hazards
Despite the volcano being dormant, a large part of island remains vulnerable
because the risk of an eruption is always there.
d) The island's people have certainly adapted to the impacts of the eruption and are
prepared for future events. It is very unlikely that any eruption will turn into a human
disaster because of the observations and warnings provided by the MVO.…read more

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A2 Geography 6th September 2010
Unit 4: Geographical Research Option 1: Tectonic Activity and Hazards
In part of their preparation for future events, there are two main types of evacuations
related to volcanic activity in Montserrat:
The first is the Slow increase of volcanic activity (normal route). The MVO meets with
the NDPRAC to advise the Committee of the changes in volcanic activity. The
NDPRAC uses this information to decide on the appropriate action to be taken.
Secondly, Rapid and hazardous increase of volcanic activity.…read more

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