Steam and gas emission rate from La Soufriere volcano, Guadeloupe (Lesser Antilles): Implications for the magmatic supply during degassing unrest Journal Article uri icon

DCO ID 11121/9725-3121-4115-6616-CC

is Contribution to the DCO

  • YES

year of publication

  • 2014


  • Since its last magmatic eruption in 1530 AD, La Soufrière andesitic volcano in Guadeloupe has displayed intense hydrothermal activity and six phreatic eruptive crises. Here we report on the first direct quantification of gas plume emissions from its summit vents, which gradually intensified during the past 20 years. Gas fluxes were determined in March 2006 and March 2012 by measuring the horizontal and vertical distributions of volcanic gas concentrations in the air-diluted plume and scaling to the speed of plume transport. Fluxes in 2006 combine real-time measurements of volcanic H2S concentrations and plume parameters with the composition of the hot (108.5 °C) fumarolic fluid at exit. Fluxes in 2012 result from MultiGAS analysis of H2S, H2O, CO2, SO2 and H2 concentrations, combined with thermal imaging of the plume geometry and dynamics. Measurements were not only focused on the most active South crater (SC) vent, but also targeted Tarissan crater and other reactivating vents. We first demonstrate that all vents are fed by a common H2O-rich (97–98 mol%) fluid end-member, emitted almost unmodified at SC but affected by secondary shallow alterations at other vents. Daily fluxes in 2012 averaged 200 tons of H2O, 15 tons of CO2, ~ 4 tons of H2S and 1 ton of HCl, increased by a factor ~ 3 compared to 2006. Even though modest, such fluxes make La Soufrière the second most important volcanic gas emitter in the Lesser Antilles arc, after Soufriere Hills of Montserrat. Taking account of other hydrothermal manifestations (hot springs and diffuse soil degassing), the summit fumarolic activity is shown to contribute most of the bulk volatile and heat budget of the volcano. The hydrothermal heat output (8 MW) exceeds by orders of magnitude the contemporaneous seismic energy release. Isotopic evidences support that La Soufrière hydrothermal emissions are sustained by a variable but continuous heat and gas supply from a magma reservoir confined at 6–7 km depth. By using petro-geochemical data for La Soufrière magma(s) and their dissolved volatile content, and assuming a magmatic derivation of sulfur, we estimate that the volcanic gas fluxes measured in 2012 could result from the underground release of magmatic gas exsolved from ~ 1400 m3 d− 1 of basaltic melt feeding the system at depth. We recommend that fumarolic gas flux at La Soufrière becomes regularly measured in the future in order to carefully monitor the temporal evolution of that magmatic supply.

associated DCO Team


  • 384