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125 years after Tarawera erupted, New Zealand’s Pink and White Terraces found 10 June 2011

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On 10 June 1886 Mount Tarawera volcano in New Zealand erupted in a huge explosive event that devastated the surrounding countryside. The beautiful Pink and White Terraces at nearby Lake Rotomahana, which were among the most celebrated of New Zealand’s many natural wonders, were obliterated by the eruption.

However, it seems that substantial parts of the terraces survived after all, and are now lying at the bottom of Lake Rotomahana. New Zealand and United States scientists working to map the lake-bottom and the geothermal system beneath it using autonomous underwater vehicles discovered portions of the Pink Terraces at the beginning of this year, and now they have confirmed the discovery of parts of the White Terraces as well. The remains were identified with side-scanning sonar: ‘The two places on the lake floor where we encountered hard, up-standing crescent-shaped features correspond to the locations of the Pink and White Terraces before the Tarawera eruption’, says Dr Cornel de Ronde of GNS Science, leader of the project.

The Volcanism Blog

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The costs of volcano monitoring: funding the Alaska Volcano Observatory (also, Auckland’s cones need more cash) 16 February 2010

Posted by admin in Auckland, New Zealand, volcanoes.
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Volcano monitoring is a vital service, but who pays? In Alaska budget for the Alaska Volcano Observatory is the focus of current debate. The AVO – which, surely, resoundingly proved its value to everyone during the Redoubt eruption of 2009 – has seen its funding fall dramatically with the loss of those unreliable short-term things Americans call ‘earmarks’:

Congress in recent years has provided annual earmarks through the Federal Aviation Administration for the observatory, which is cited as a key contributor to aviation safety in Alaska. But those earmarks have dried up, and total funding for the observatory has fallen from $8 million per year to $5 million, prompting the state Department of Natural Resources to propose a $300,000 contribution this year to help.

As a result it’s been suggested that airlines and freight companies could pay a levy towards the costs of running AVO, the argument presumably being that these business sectors benefit directly from the monitoring and warning services provided by the observatory. [UPDATE: see Dr Erik Klemetti’s remarks on this at Eruptions.]

Recently we saw the Russian volcano monitoring network KVERT hit the buffers when the money ran out (although a temporary fix has now been put in place): it would be deeply unfortunate, to say the least, if the AVO’s vital monitoring system on the other side of the Bering Strait were to encounter similar difficulties.

Meanwhile, in not unrelated news from New Zealand: getting the necessary cash together to look after Auckland’s volcanic cones properly is proving a problem. Local people want ‘good footpaths, good stormwater protection and a clean, green experience on the cones’, but councillors have refused to reinstate a long-term volcanic protection budget worth NZ$8 million, leaving the cones with a ‘pitiful and downright disrespectful’ NZ$457,000 to live on.

The Volcanism Blog

New Zealand: disaster management software aims to save lives 12 January 2010

Posted by admin in natural hazards, New Zealand.
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Yasir Javed, a doctoral student in the application of computer technology to disaster management at Massey University in New Zealand, was in the city of Abbottabad in his homeland of Pakistan when the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake hit, killing thousands. His current research at Massey is inspired by his experience of that disaster and its aftermath, when communication systems collapsed and thousands of people were left unable to discover whether missing relatives were alive or dead.

Javed worked in the relief effort, setting up a computer database of earthquake victims admitted to Abbottabad’s hospitals, helping survivors to trace missing family members. Now transplanted to New Zealand, he is carrying out admirable research on an integrated information management system for emergency services to use following natural disasters:

Yasir Javed’s research involves the design, implementation and evaluation of an internet-based package called Situation Aware Volcanic Eruption Reasoner (SAVER) to help emergency operations have a clear understanding of the disaster and the status of their resources in dealing with it. The package is designed to provide a common platform, giving information to emergency services about the full picture of the disaster and status of emergency resources. Mr Javed began the project after an emergency exercise last year based on the occurrence of a volcanic eruption in Auckland revealed current emergency services do not have an integrated information management system.

The initial focus on volcanic eruptions reflects the fact that Javed is based at the Albany campus of Massey University near Auckland. After his experiences in the Kashmir earthquake, he says, ‘I realised I wanted to work with technology in these disaster scenarios to save lives. ‘New Zealand is quite disaster-prone and it seemed the ideal place to do this kind of research’.

News
Evacuating Auckland after an eruption – Massey University press release, 6 January 2010
Auckland eruption evacuation software developed – 3 News, 6 January 2010
Software tackles Auckland evacuation – Stuff.co.nz, 6 January 2010
Logging on to beat volcanic eruptionNew Zealand Herald, 7 January 2010

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Auckland – summary information for the Auckland volcanic field (0401-02=)

The Volcanism Blog

Saturday volcano art: Charles Blomfield, ‘Rotomahana after the eruption’ (1887) 14 March 2009

Posted by admin in New Zealand, Saturday volcano art, volcano art, volcano culture, volcanoes.
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Charles Blomfield 'Rotomahana after the eruption' (1887)

In the early hours of 10 June 1886 Mount Tarawera volcano in New Zealand erupted in a major explosive event that devastated the surrounding landscape, buried local villages and killed over a hundred people. Before the Tarawera eruption the hydrothermal area around nearby Lake Rotomahana was one of the most celebrated scenic sites in New Zealand, with beautiful pools, springs, geysers, and the renowned pink and white terraces. These were two sets of stepped siliceous sinter deposits formed by the water of geysers cascading down hill slopes towards the lake. They were among New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions, and were known as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’. They were utterly destroyed in the eruption.

The pink and white terraces were favourite subjects for photographers and artists, and among those who fell under their spell was Charles Blomfield (1848-1926), a self-taught painter born in London who came to New Zealand with his mother and family in 1863. He first painted the terraces in 1875, and returned in 1884, camping on site and producing many views of the terraces and the surrounding landscape. The eruption of Tarawera and the destruction of the terraces was a great blow to Blomfield. He returned to the scene in October 1886, four months after the eruption, and painted several views of the devastated landscape, one of which is reproduced above.

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New Zealand undersea volcanism at the Eruptions blog 12 March 2009

Posted by admin in current research, geoscience, New Zealand, submarine volcanism.
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Dr Klemetti has an interesting post at his Eruptions blog today on undersea volcanism in the Kermadec Arc, north of New Zealand. A study by the University of Southampton and the University of Washington found evidence of a high level of volcanic activity in this area, with the delightfully-named Rumble III volcano having apparently filled in its crater and lost 100m in height since 2007. Eruptions has all the information and relevant links: Volcanoes old and new in New Zealand.

The Volcanism Blog

Ruapehu heating up 18 September 2008

Posted by admin in activity reports, New Zealand, Ruapehu.
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Ruahepu Crater Lake (GeoNet image)
Ruapehu Crater Lake (GeoNet image).

GeoNet reports today that Ruapehu appears to be entering a new heating cycle. The Crater Lake temperature has risen to 22°C this month, from 16°C in August, a change accompanied by some volcanic tremor. Between October 2007 and June 2008 the temperature varied between 34°C and 37°C. Sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide levels in the volcano’s plume are also showing an upwards trend, consistent with the rising temperature within the Crater Lake. There is nothing unusual about any of this, however: ‘Cyclic activity in the Crater Lake’, observes the GeoNet bulletin, ‘is very common at Ruapehu’.

The alert level for Ruapehu remains at level 1 (departure from typical background surface activity, signs of unrest). GeoNet warns that ‘Ruapehu remains an active volcano and future eruptions may occur without warning’.

At the beginning of the week the skiing season at Ruapehu was extended by three weeks because of record snow falls.

For all our New Zealand coverage: New Zealand « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Ruapehu entering new heating cycle – GNSNew Zealand Herald, 18 September 2008

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Ruapehu – summary information for Ruapehu (0401-10=)
GeoNet volcanoes – volcano information from GeoNet, the organization responsible for volcano monitoring in New Zealand
GeoNet Volcano Alert bulletins – volcanic activity bulletins from GeoNet

The Volcanism Blog

White Island update, 17 June 2008 17 June 2008

Posted by admin in activity reports, New Zealand, White Island.
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Gas plume, White Island (GeoNet image)

Following the recent 5.4M earthquake in the Bay of Plenty the volcanologists at GeoNet warned that there was a danger of some kind of response from the volcano and suggested that people keep their distance (see our earlier post). The volcano has shown no sign of unusual activity, however, according to today’s cautious new bulletin from GeoNet:

White Island is an active volcano and eruptions can occur at any time without warning. As a consequence of this earthquake sequence the eruption hazard at the island may have increased above the normal levels. However as we have not recorded any significant changes over the last few days, it would appear the volcano is returning to a normal quiescent state. Normal cautions should be applied when visiting the volcano.

The advice seems to be that visits can resume, with the normal precautions. The alert level for White Island remains at 1: ‘there is no significant change in volcanic activity on the island’.

(Picture: Gas plume, White Island. GeoNet image.)

For all our New Zealand coverage: New Zealand << The Volcanism Blog

Information
Global Volcanism Program: White Island – summary information for White Island (0401-04=)
GeoNet – White Island – GeoNet’s information and current activity page for White Island

The Volcanism Blog

White Island, New Zealand: warning issued after quake 13 June 2008

Posted by admin in activity reports, New Zealand, White Island.
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White Island (GeoNet image)

White Island, situated 48km offshore of North Island in the Bay of Plenty, is formed by the summit of a submarine volcano and is one of New Zealand’s most active volcanic centres. Visitors have been warned by GeoNet to keep away from the island for the next 48-72 hours following a 5.4M earthquake at 09:06 local time today. The epicentre was 10km south-west of White Island, and the depth of the quake was 5km. The earthquake was widely felt around the Bay of Plenty.

‘This morning’s earthquake was a tectonic-type earthquake, and these are common in the outer Bay of Plenty’, says the GeoNet report on the event. ‘There has been no immediate response from the volcano though the large number of aftershocks means that any seismic response may be difficult to see for several hours’. The alert level for White Island remains at level 1.

(Picture: White Island. GeoNet image.)

For all our New Zealand coverage: New Zealand << The Volcanism Blog

Information
Global Volcanism Program: White Island – summary information for White Island (0401-04=)
GeoNet – White Island – GeoNet’s information and current activity page for White Island

News
Scientists warn tourists off White Island volcano – Stuff.co.nz, 13 June 2008
Volcano warning after earthquakeMelbourne Herald-Sun, 13 June 2008
White Island visits suspended following quake – Radio New Zealand, 13 June 2008

The Volcanism Blog

GeoNet’s volcano pages revised 13 June 2008

Posted by admin in geoscience, New Zealand, volcano monitoring, volcanology.
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Gas sampling, Ngauruhoe (GeoNet image)

GeoNet, a partnership between GNS Science and the Earthquake Commission, is responsible for geohazard monitoring in New Zealand, including keeping a watchful eye on the country’s volcanoes.

The volcano pages at the GeoNet website have just been revised and expanded, and now offer a very clear overview of current activity, a large image gallery, and excellent, clear descriptions of volcano monitoring methods.

The current activity pages are particularly impressive, with descriptions, maps, real-time seismic information and (where available) webcams and pictures for twelve volcanic centres.

The entire site has the great virtues of simplicity and clarity, which are often lacking in the cluttered, clunky and gimmick-laden sites offered by other volcanism authorities (mentioning no names). GeoNet’s is is now one of the clearest and best-organized volcano monitoring sites to be found anywhere.

(Picture: Gas sampling, Ngauruhoe. GeoNet image.)

For all our New Zealand coverage: New Zealand << The Volcanism Blog

The Volcanism Blog

Ruapehu: warning of ‘elevated unrest’ 14 May 2008

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In a bulletin issued yesterday, 13 May 2008, New Zealand’s geohazards monitoring organization GeoNet warns that ‘Elevated gas output, high lake temperatures and volcanic tremor continue to indicate elevated unrest at Ruapehu’.

CO2 and SO2 levels in Ruapehu’s gas plume are both significantly above normal background levels, and a slight increase in the levels of volcanic tremor has continued, with some periods of stronger tremor. The temperature of Crater Lake remains elevated, fluctuating between 34°C and 36.8°C:

Sustained heat from depth is required to keep the temperature this high for this length of time. It is believed that the source of this heat is magma within the volcano conduit. This magma is also producing the higher than normal gas flow and chemical changes. … These observations are consistent with the volcano-hydrothermal system responding to recent eruptions and ongoing interaction with magma in the volcano conduit. The volcano remains in a status of unrest and the possibility of further activity remains at the volcano. If further eruptions occur, they may occur without warning.

The New Zealand Herald quotes GNS Science volcanologist Dr Tony Hurst as saying that on the basis of these signs Ruapehu ‘was not likely to erupt this year, but the signs did point to an increased risk of volcanic activity. That could mean steam plumes, gas bubbles and fountains from Crater Lake, he said’. The Herald‘s report on Ruapehu is cheerfully categorized as a ‘natural disasters story’.

The alert level for Ruapehu remains at level 1 (departure from typical background activity, signs of unrest).

For all our New Zealand coverage: New Zealand << The Volcanism Blog

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Ruapehu – summary information for Ruapehu (0401-10=)
GeoNet volcanoes – volcano information from GeoNet, the organization responsible for volcano monitoring in New Zealand
GeoNet Volcano Alert bulletins – volcanic activity bulletins from GeoNet

News
Restless Ruapehu emits danger signs – NZ Herald, 14 May 2008
Molten rock on the move in NZ volcano – Radio Australia, 13 May 2008
Scientists warn Ruapehu emitting more gas – Stuff.co.nz, 13 May 2008

The Volcanism Blog