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Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand) — March 1990

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 3 (March 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Ruapehu (New Zealand) Phreatic explosions stop; increased tremor

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand). In: McClelland, L. (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199003-241100.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Ruapehu

New Zealand

39.28°S, 175.57°E; summit elev. 2797 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Phreatic eruptions had apparently stopped by 1 February. A possible eruption cloud was reported on 19 March, but a field inspection that day revealed only steam rising from the lake surface. There was no evidence of recent surging associated with small eruptions. Crater Lake was battleship gray with yellow and gray sulfur slicks. No convection was observed over the main vent, and only faint upwelling could be detected over the N vents. The lake temperature had cooled to 34.1°C from 46.5°C on 6 February. A sizeable lake had formed in an area of ice collapse in the valley draining Crater Lake to the S. Since 1 February, the lake had grown from ~60 ± 15 m to 100 ± 30 m. Sudden release of the lake could cause flooding in the Whangaehu River.

Volcanic tremor gradually declined in February, nearing background levels by 8 March. Continuous tremor with fairly uniform amplitude changed to bursts of tremor alternating with periods of quiet, similar to small volcanic earthquakes. On 8 March, tremor increased to high levels and broadened its frequency range, with 1 and 1.5 Hz tremor in addition to the usual 2 Hz signal. Tremor remained strong for 2-3 days before declining to more moderate amplitude. During the period of strongest activity, 6-hour energy release reached 400-1,400 x 104 joules, exceeding levels that accompanied the January 1982 eruptions, but less than in September 1982, when there were no eruptions and declining lake temperature. Tremor increased again on 16 March, almost to the level of 8 March, but by the 22nd had decreased to moderate-strong amplitude. EDM measurements on four lines across the N portion of the crater detected only small (<7mm) changes since the 1 February survey.

Geologic Background. Ruapehu, one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes, is a complex stratovolcano constructed during at least four cone-building episodes dating back to about 200,000 years ago. The 110 km3 dominantly andesitic volcanic massif is elongated in a NNE-SSW direction and surrounded by another 100 km3 ring plain of volcaniclastic debris, including the Murimoto debris-avalanche deposit on the NW flank. A series of subplinian eruptions took place between about 22,600 and 10,000 years ago, but pyroclastic flows have been infrequent. A single historically active vent, Crater Lake, is located in the broad summit region, but at least five other vents on the summit and flank have been active during the Holocene. Frequent mild-to-moderate explosive eruptions have occurred in historical time from the Crater Lake vent, and tephra characteristics suggest that the crater lake may have formed as early as 3000 years ago. Lahars produced by phreatic eruptions from the summit crater lake are a hazard to a ski area on the upper flanks and to lower river valleys.

Information Contacts: P. Otway, DSIR Wairakei.