Whakaari/White Island likelihood of future eruption

Published: Wed Dec 11 2019 4:50 PM

An eruption occurred at Whakaari/White Island at 2:11pm on Monday 9 December, with devastating consequences for those on the volcano at the time.

Our thoughts and sympathies are with those families that continue to be affected by the eruption.

Future scenario

At 11:00am 11 December, scientists reviewed all available data and calculated the likelihood of an eruption that would impact beyond the vent area (marked in the image below) occurring within the next 24 hours.

Photo of Whakaari/White Island from 2004, showing the marked vent area.

Photo of Whakaari/White Island from 2004, showing the marked vent area.

Click image to make it larger. The distance between the edge of the crater lake and the ocean at the bottom of the image is about 700m. Photo by Karen Britten, graphic by Danielle Charlton at University of Auckland.


Their calculation was that there is a 40-60% chance (medium likelihood) of an eruption occurring that could impact outside of the marked vent area within the next 24 hours.

This is in comparison to an estimated 0.1-0.2% chance of an eruption for a 24-hour period, calculated during an expert judgement on 29 October 2019, prior to the Volcanic Alert Level being raised to 2.

Since this expert judgement was made this morning, volcanic tremor has increased.

Timeline of activity

Volcanic tremor at Whakaari/White Island since 11 November 2019

Volcanic tremor at Whakaari/White Island since 11 November 2019

Our monitoring equipment continues to function and is providing us with continuous data on the volcano’s activity. Here is an annotated graph showing volcanic tremor over the last month recorded at one of our monitoring stations on the island. The 9 December eruption is shown in the red box. Also shown are the periods of Volcanic Alert Level.

More information will be provided by GNS Science at the 5:00pm National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and New Zealand Police press conference.

Attributable to: Craig Miller, GNS Science Duty Volcanologist