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Natural-color image showing the location of the two Caribbean volcanoes, as observed by the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite on January 1, 2021. Please note that the white regions are clouds, not volcanic ash. Credit: NASA Worldview

Researchers have recently indicated there may be an imminent volcanic eruption in two volcanoes in the Caribbean – the La Soufrière volcano on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Mt. Pelée on Martinique.  According to the Seismic Research Center at the University of the West Indies, there has been no explosive eruption at La Soufrière so far, but magma reaching the surface is forming a growing dome crater. The volcano is also releasing gas and steam. In Martinique, seismologists have detected increased seismic activity under Mt. Pelée. Officials have issued an orange alert for the northern end of Saint Vincent, which means an eruption could occur with less than 24 hours' notice. When La Soufrière last erupted in 1979 over 20,000 people were evacuated. An eruption in 1902 killed 1,565 people. Before that, the last major eruption in the region was in 1812.

Short wave infrared satellite data collected on January 3, 2021 shows a thermal anomaly (in red) within the La Soufrière volcano on Saint Vincent, indicating magma close to the surface. Credit: Sentinelhub, Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021), processed by ESA.

The NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program has activated to aid risk reduction efforts for a potential volcanic eruption, and is closely monitoring the region. The program responded to an initial request for assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) coordinated by the NASA Applied Sciences SERVIR program, and is now working directly with the USGS Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP)  to identify and analyze Earth-observing data that may be helpful in preparing for a potential eruption and mitigating its impacts. The teams have used short wave infrared data from the European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite to identify a thermal anomaly in the La Soufrière volcano, indicating magma close to the surface.

Learn more about how NASA supports risk reduction, response and recovery efforts for volcanoes.