Published: Tue Jun 8 2021 3:30 PM
Following the period of heightened unrest activity in December 2020, volcanic activity at Mt Ruapehu has remained at a low level over the past six months, with gas emissions, lake chemistry and volcanic tremor all within typical ranges. After the December period of high temperatures, Crater Lake (Te Wai ā-moe) cooled then reheated in early April before cooling again now to around 26°C. The Volcanic Alert Level at Mt Ruapehu remains at Level 1.
In December 2020, we observed elevated volcanic activity at Mt Ruapehu, raising the Volcanic Alert Level (VAL) to 2. This unrest declined in January and the Volcanic Alert Level was lowered back to Level 1 on 11 January 2021. The Crater Lake (Te Wai ā-moe) temperature cooled to around 30°C in February-March.
Since the December 2020 period of elevated unrest we have conducted routine monitoring gas measurement flights and Crater Lake (Te Wai ā-moe) water samplings. The results from these visits and of our continuous monitoring of volcanic earthquake activity, tremor levels, and Crater Lake (Te Wai ā-moe) temperature and water level indicate that key monitoring parameters remain within normal ranges.
The largest observed variation in activity over the past several months has been the crater lake temperature. It was over 43ºC in early January 2021 then cooled to around 30ºC in February-March, before reheating again to just over 40ºC in early April. Since then, it has cooled again to 26ºC in recent weeks.
To maintain the lake water temperature at around 40ºC our modelling indicates that ~400 MW (megawatt) of heat was entering the lake. The heat input is currently about 100MW.
All these observations suggest that volcanic unrest activity remains at low levels at Mt Ruapehu.
The Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 1 which reflects the current level of volcanic unrest. Mt Ruapehu is an active volcano and has the potential to erupt with little or no warning when in a state of volcanic unrest. The Aviation Colour Code remains colour Green.
The Volcanic Alert Level should not be used to forecast future activity, however at Volcanic Alert Level 1, eruptions are less likely than at Volcanic Alert Level 2.
Volcanic Alert Level 1 indicates the primary hazards are those expected during volcanic unrest: steam discharge, volcanic gas, earthquakes, landslides and hydrothermal activity. While Volcanic Alert Level 1 is mostly associated with environmental hazards, eruptions can still occur with little or no warning. For information on access to the Mt Ruapehu area, please visit the Department of Conservation’s websites on volcanic risk in Tongariro National Park and follow their Facebook page for further updates.
GNS Science and the National Geohazards Monitoring Centre continue to closely monitor Mt Ruapehu for further changes.
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