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Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand) — November 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 11 (November 1993)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Ruapehu (New Zealand) Temperature of crater lake remains high, but no eruption

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:11. Smithsonian Institution.


New Zealand

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

As of 4 November there was no evidence of any significant eruption.... despite elevated temperatures that have previously correlated with minor eruptions. Crater lake inspection at Outlet, the lake's drainage point, on 4 November, revealed elevated water temperature. The temperature, 37.2°C, was one degree cooler than on 29 September, but ~26°C warmer than measured in June and July. In the years 1989-92, minor eruptive activity consistently took place when similar elevations in lake temperature occurred; this pattern was repeated 4-5 times in this interval (see figure 15). In addition, during this interval one or two eruptions took place with comparatively low lake temperatures. Minor eruptions also showed strong correlation with elevated lake temperatures in the interval from March 1978-April 1980 (McClelland and others, 1989). Elevated temperatures during September-November 1993 have yet to follow the same pattern and correlate with an eruption.

On 4 November the crater lake was battleship gray in color, its surface frequently obscured by steam. No convection was visible, although broken dark slicks appeared near the main vent and the N vent area exhibited minor upwelling and yellow slicks. The lake surface level on 4 November remained similar to 29 September: ~16 cm below the overflow level. No surging was noted, in contrast with 21 September when the lake surface at Outlet underwent well defined oscillations (a seiche). That seiche was of 3-13 cm amplitude and had an irregular periodicity of 25-50 seconds.

As of 4 November, volcanic tremor had declined from a high reached 3 months earlier. In terms of daily power output, tremor peaked in early August at over 1,000 W. The lowest point in daily power output happened in early October, 3-4 W. Thereafter, it fluctuated in the 10-70 W range.

A deformation circuit encircled the lake on 4 November. Survey lines comprising the circuit were between ~600 and 1,200 m long. The bulk of the lines mainly showed either length increases in the range of 1-9 mm or length decreases in the range of 6-19 mm. The surveyors regarded the changes as too small to have any volcanic significance.

More than 4 m of snow rested on the crater rim, possibly the deepest snow-pack encountered in 23 years of observations. This much snow should have provided an abundant source of water, but the Lake level was below the level of Outlet. This paradox was explained as follows. First, seepage through the vent walls and evaporation due to high water temperatures have reduced the lake level. Second, the amount of meltwater that entered the Lake was below normal due to unseasonably cold air temperatures.

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: P. Otway, IGNS Wairakei.