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Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand) — May 1985

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 10, no. 5 (May 1985)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Ruapehu (New Zealand) Hydrothermal eruptions accompany seismic activity

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1985. Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 10:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198505-241100.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


New Zealand

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

After 3 years of quiescience, small hydrothermal eruptions began on or shortly before 21 May. On 16 May, major overflow of Crater Lake into the Whangaehu River began, as shown by pH and conductivity measurements downstream (at Tangiwai). Seismic activity, characterized by increased high-frequency tremor and local earthquakes, began [in early May, with some minor tremor on the 5th and small volcanic earthquakes on the 11th]. Eruptions were first observed in Crater Lake on 21 May and were also seen on 25 May.

On 28 May NZGS personnel noted 15 small hydrothermal eruptions during a 10-hour period. All the eruptions occurred in the lake center, where resumption of weak upwelling had first been observed on 26 April. The eruptions were characterized by updoming of the central lake surface, noisy ejection of water and mud jetting to 10 m above the lake surface, and waves radiating from the lake center. Clouds limited deformation measurements across the crater but a pair of horizontal angle observations indicated no major change in crater diameter.

The lake was battleship-gray in color, with clean snow around the water margin about 1 m above lake level. The lake temperature had increased to 45°C from the 20-25°C range of recent months. Interim analyses of the lake water show a progressive dilution throughout the summer months. Chlorine and magnesium contents have increased since activity began, but the Mg/Cl ratio has not changed significantly.

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 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 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 (Te Wai a-moe), 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 3,000 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: I. Nairn and B. Scott, NZGS, Rotorua; P. Otway, NZGS, Wairakei.