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Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand) — February 1989


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 14, no. 2 (February 1989)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Ruapehu (New Zealand) Lake temperature rises; small phreatic explosions

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1989. Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 14:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198902-241100


New Zealand

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

When geologists visited the volcano 24 January, there was no evidence of recent eruptive activity in the crater area. The lake temperature was 32°C, an increase from 27° on 11 January and 13.7° after the 8 December eruption. Discontinuous convection over the central vent produced a black sulfur slick while very weak convection produced a yellow slick over the N vent. Dissolved Mg and Cl contents in the lake continued to increase, with Mg/Cl decreasing slightly from 11 January values. Strong SO2 fumes were noted above the outflow area. From about 27 January through the end of February, minor phreatic eruptions similar to those of April 1988 were reported. Geologists noted that phreatic activity at Ruapehu seems to begin when the lake temperature approaches ~30°C.

On 10 February, Crater Lake's temperature was 39°C, and it was 42.5°C by the 26th. There was no evidence of recent moderate-large eruptions. The lake surface was covered with steam but no eruptions were observed. Several fresh sulfur strandlines, ~10-15 cm above the lake level, suggested that any recent eruptions produced only small waves. Mg/Cl had increased slightly from the 24 January sampling. Steam clouds were sighted above the volcano on four days in late February.

Sporadic 2-Hz tremor episodes that began 10 January were continuing as of 12 February. Tremor amplitude increased on 20 January, but returned to more normal levels the next day. Seismicity since 24 January (3 days before the first eruption of the year was reported) remained low. EDM observations showed only small changes since 11 January.

Geological Summary. 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 dominantly andesitic 110 km3 volcanic massif is elongated in a NNE-SSW direction and surrounded by another 100 km3 ring plain of volcaniclastic debris, including the NW-flank Murimoto debris-avalanche deposit. A series of subplinian eruptions took place between about 22,600 and 10,000 years ago, but pyroclastic flows have been infrequent. The broad summait area and flank contain at least six vents active during the Holocene. Frequent mild-to-moderate explosive eruptions have been recorded from the Te Wai a-Moe (Crater Lake) vent, and tephra characteristics suggest that the crater lake may have formed as recently as 3,000 years ago. Lahars resulting from phreatic eruptions at the summit crater lake are a hazard to a ski area on the upper flanks and lower river valleys.

Information Contacts: B. Christenson and S. Sherburn, DSIR, Wairakei; P. Otway, NZGS Wairakei.