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Shallow magma driving volcanic activity at Whakaari/White Island, eruption risk continues - 13/12/2019

Volcano monitoring data from Whakaari/White Island indicates a shallow body of magma is present and eruption risk continues, GNS Science experts say.

Since Monday’s tragic events there has been no further eruptive activity at Whakaari/White Island.

But scientists say the risk of an eruption is unchanged since yesterday – with a 50-60 per cent chance of an eruption within 24 hours.

The latest data from the volcano points to a highly volatile situation: 

  • overnight the level of volcanic tremor dropped but remains very high compared to the past decade
  • gas collected with specialised fly-over equipment indicates an increase in volcanic gas emissions since Tuesday – this is gas sensed high in the atmosphere for magma-system interpretation, not at ground level
  • vigorous steam and mud bursts and jetting continue from the active vent area

“These results tell us there is magma at a shallow depth below the crater,” GNS Science Volcanologist Graham Leonard says.

“As the magma rises, it releases a lot of hot gases, which work their way to the surface.

“All this means the risk of an eruption continues.

“GNS Science staff access zones have changed shape slightly, with allowances made to further allow for hot ash clouds across the crater floor and now also over lower parts of the crater rim.”

Some monitoring equipment has been affected by ash and Graham Leonard says one remote camera will stop functioning today or over the weekend.

“Our remote stations are solar powered, and some data transmission will stop when the North Rim camera goes down due to ash covering the solar panels.

“The good news is that almost all the monitoring equipment is still functioning.

“The National Geohazards Monitoring Centre is operating 24/7, keeping eyes on the volcano.

“We are in constant contact with emergency services and the public and will pass on any changes as soon as we can.”

Risk assessment map