Steam plume visible at Mt Ruapehu, volcanic unrest continues: Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 2.

Published: Tue May 3 2022 3:30 PM

Volcanic Activity BulletinRUA - 2022/09
Tue May 3 2022 3:30 PM; Ruapehu Volcano
Volcanic Alert Level remains at 2
Aviation Colour Code remains at Yellow

Earlier this morning, a steam plume was visible above Mt Ruapehu’s Crater Lake (Te Wai ā-moe). The first sign of the plume occurred at ~09:45 am and it ascended slowly to ~1 to 1.5 km above the summit area. The plume remained visible until around 10.30 am. Images of the plume indicate that atmospheric conditions favoured cloud formation, as cloud was also forming elsewhere around the volcano. The plume was seen widely around the volcano.

GeoNet image of Ruapehu from earlier this morning

GeoNet image of Ruapehu from earlier this morning

No seismic or acoustic activity accompanied the plume appearance, indicating the steam plume was not generated by strong activity in the lake. We cannot rule out that very minor activity has occurred, which is why our scientists conducted an observation flight early this afternoon. Observations from that visit indicate that central vent continues to be actively upwelling, and the lake level is marginally higher. These observations are like those reported yesterday.

Image taken of Crater Lake (Te Wai ā-moe) from the observation flight this afternoon.

Image taken of Crater Lake (Te Wai ā-moe) from the observation flight this afternoon.

The current lake temperature is now ~39 ºC. In the past, lake temperatures this high, combined with cool and calm atmospheric conditions, have generated visible steam plumes above the lake. We may expect more plumes to be seen over the coming weeks/months under suitable weather conditions.

Laboratory analysis of the latest Crater Lake fluid samples are now processed. Results are very similar to past analyses and show no clear indication that magma is interacting with the hydrothermal system beneath the lake.

The interpretation of this activity is consistent with elevated volcanic unrest at the heightened level and therefore the Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 2. The Aviation Colour Code remains at Yellow.

We will conduct further gas measurement and observation flights as weather conditions allow.

Mt Ruapehu is an active volcano and has the potential to erupt with little or no warning when in a state of elevated volcanic unrest.

The Volcanic Alert Level reflects the current level of elevated volcanic unrest. The Volcanic Alert Level should not be used to forecast future activity. However, at Volcanic Alert Level 2, eruptions are usually more likely than at Volcanic Alert Level 1.

Volcanic Alert Level 2 indicates the primary hazards are those expected during volcanic unrest; steam discharge, volcanic gas, earthquakes, landslides and hydrothermal activity. While Volcano Alert Level 2 is mostly associated with volcanic unrest 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 the DOC Tongariro Facebook page for further updates.

For information about responding to volcanic activity there are guidelines from the National Emergency Management Agency's Get Ready website.

GNS Science and its National Geohazards Monitoring Centre continue to closely monitor Mt Ruapehu for further changes.

Geoff Kilgour Duty Volcanologist

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