Whakaari/White Island: Update #19

Published: Wed Jan 15 2020 10:26 AM
Updated: Wed Jan 15 2020 12:00 PM

Whakaari/White Island remains in an elevated state of unrest. Very hot gas and steam continues to discharge from vents created by the eruption on December 9th. Further large explosive eruptions are very unlikely on any given day* in the next four weeks. The Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 2 and the Aviation Colour Code remains Yellow.

Apart from minor ash emissions on December 23rd and 26th, no significantly sustained or strong eruptive activity has been observed since the December 9th eruption. Strong emissions of steam and volcanic gases continue from the vent area created by that eruption. The vent area remains very hot (440°C).

Three short lived episodes of volcanic tremor occurred between 8th and 10th of January accompanied by minor explosions from the active vents. The SO2 gas emission rates are within normal post eruptive ranges. This suggests there is no fresh movement of magma since making it to the surface shortly after the December 2019 eruption.

An explosive eruption from the active vent area remains possible and could occur with no precursory activity. This style of eruption could be driven by the collapse of unstable material around one of the vents, or by a marked decrease in gas emissions allowing water from the reforming crater lake or geothermal system to enter the active hot gas vents. Sudden steam/gas eruptions from other active vents are also possible.

Should any explosive activity produce an ash cloud, the likelihood of ash affecting the mainland remains low.

All our monitoring equipment on the island is operating and the camera feeds have been re-established on the monitoring web pages.

The Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 2. The Aviation Colour Code remains Yellow.

Volcanic Alert Level 2 indicates moderate to heightened unrest with potential for eruption hazards including unpredictable and life-threatening steam driven eruptions.

The Volcanic Alert Level reflects the current level of volcanic activity and is not a forecast of future activity.

GNS Science and our National Geohazards Monitoring Centre continue to closely monitor Whakaari/White Island for further signs of activity. Further updates will be provided as the situation evolves.

Brad Scott Duty Volcanologist

Media Contact: 021 574 541 or media@gns.cri.nz

-* this has been edited to include 'on any given day'