BackgroundRenowned Montagne Pelée, forming the northern end of the island of Martinique, is the most active volcano of the Lesser Antilles arc. Three major edifice failures since the late Pleistocene, the last about 9000 years ago, have left large horseshoe-shaped calderas breached to the SW inside which the modern volcano has been constructed. More than 20 major eruptions have occurred at Pelée during the past 5000 years. Extensive pyroclastic-flow deposits, incised by steep-walled ravines, mantle the slopes of the volcano. The l'Etang Sec summit crater is filled by two lava domes emplaced during the 1902 and 1929 eruptions. Historical eruptions date back to the 18th century; only two modest phreatic or phreatomagmatic eruptions took place prior to 1902. The catastrophic 1902 eruption, which destroyed the city of St. Pierre, the "Pearl of the Lesser Antilles," became the type-example of pelean eruptions and marked the onset of modern volcanological studies of the behavior of pyroclastic flows.
Smithsonian / GVP volcano information
Mt Pelée volcano on Martinique Island (Photo: Richard Arculus)
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