Mt Ruapehu volcanic unrest continues with moderate tremor and a cooler Crater Lake. The Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 2.

Published: Fri Jun 3 2022 11:30 AM

Volcanic Activity BulletinRUA - 2022/13
Fri Jun 3 2022 11:30 AM; Ruapehu Volcano
Volcanic Alert Level remains at 2
Aviation Colour Code remains at Yellow

Volcanic tremor levels were moderate last week, and the Crater Lake (Te Wai ā-moe) temperature has been steady around 31 °C. However, volcanic unrest continues at Mt Ruapehu and the potential for eruptive activity remains. The Volcanic Alert Level remains at 2.

Activity Update

Volcanic tremor strength at Mt Ruapehu was moderate during last week but has since dropped to weak levels like those seen 2 weeks ago. Although tremor has varied week-to-week, the overall intensity has declined from the strong levels recorded early May.

The crater lake temperature is currently 30 °C and has been steady around 30 – 31 °C for the past week, indicating that heat entering the lake is being sustained at around 200 MW. The lake level often rises and falls quickly in response to heavy rainfall such as happened last week and during this week.

Although weather conditions have not allowed gas measurement flights, the most recent high sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) outputs combined with still variable levels of volcanic tremor, are consistent with a continued period of heightened volcanic unrest at Mt Ruapehu and the potential for eruptive activity remains.

Scenarios

Within the next four weeks, the most likely outcomes of this ongoing unrest are either minor eruptive activity that is confined to the lake basin, or no eruption. Minor eruptions may generate lahars (dangerous volcanic mudflows) in the Whangaehu River.

The next likely scenario is a larger eruption that impacts the summit plateau with volcanic surges. That event could generate lahars in multiple catchments, like what was seen after the September 2007 eruption, or like those in June 1969. An eruption of this size would cause life-threatening hazards on the summit plateau and in valleys impacted by lahars.

The chance of a prolonged eruptive episode or a larger eruption, with wider ashfall impacts such as occurred in 1995-96, is higher than it was two months ago, but within the next four weeks remains very unlikely. Such an eruption would most likely only follow a sequence of smaller eruptions.

Summary

Due to the heightened volcanic unrest, GNS Science staff are carrying out more frequent aerial observations and gas measurements when weather conditions are suitable.

Our interpretation of the observational data and 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.

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 Volcanic Alert Level 2 is mostly associated with volcanic unrest hazards, eruptions can still occur with little or no warning. Volcanic Alert Levels 3, 4 and 5 are reserved for eruptions with varying impact distances.

For information on access to the Mt Ruapehu area, please visit the Department of Conservation’s websites on volcanic risk in Tongariro National Park 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 (https://getready.govt.nz/emergency/volcanic-activity/).

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

Michael Rosenberg, Duty Volcanologist

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