BBHS CASE STUDY - Montserrat - An example of a volcanic eruption

Location & Main Features


Montserrat is a small island is situated in the  Caribbean and  12 miles long and 7 miles wide.


It is known as the 'Emerald Island' and is mountainous with plenty of woodland. It has attracted many rich people to the island and was famous for rock stars recording their.


However much of the population are poor and rely on farming which is for their subsistence. Before the eruption of 1995, over 12,000 people lived on the island but less than 5000 do today.


The Causes of the Montserrat Eruption

Montserrat lies on a destructive plate boundary. As the two plates merge the oceanic plate is forced down or sub ducted under the continental plate. As it is forced down pressure increases which triggers earthquakes and at the same time heat produced by friction melts the descending crust to  form molten magma. The hot magma tries to rise to the surface and when it succeeds will form a volcano such as the one in Montserrat.

The story of the eruptions - 1995 - 1997

1992 - The first Earthquakes appear
1995 - The volcano erupts after being dormant for 500 yrs
1996 - The volcano continued to erupt and became
           more violent causing increased damage.
1997 - Large eruptions continued with the dome
          collapsing and large pyroclastic flows affecting
          much of the island



The Primary Effects of the Eruption

2/3 of the island was covered in ash


50% of the population were evacuated to the north of the island to live in makeshift shelters


23 people died in 1997


Plymouth - the capital became a ghost town


Floods as valleys were blocked with ash


The airport and port were closed


Farmland was destroyed


Forest fires caused by pyroclastic flows


Many schools and hospitals were destroyed




A Pyroclastic Flow creating more land

Plymouth - 1997


The Secondary effects of the Eruption

As most of the southern area was destroyed any remaining inhabitants have had to endure harsh living conditions in the North.

Transport remains a problem for people travelling to the island as the port and airport remain closed.

The tourist industry is still suffering with few visitors except for cruise ships looking at the volcano

Over half the population left the island and have not returned



Responses to the Eruption

41 million was given in aid by the British Government.

Money was given to individuals to help them move to other countries.

Riots occurred as locals complained that the British were not doing enough to help the islan

The MVO (Montserrat Volcano Observatory) was set up to study the volcano and provide warnings for the future

A Risk assessment was done to help islanders understand which areas are at risk and reduce problems for the future.


Above are Volcanic risk maps to show which areas of Montserrat were at risk from eruptions from 1996 - 2004


Just click on the flag for access to information of the island

Click on above for lots of information of the eruption!