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Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand) — November 1985


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 10, no. 11 (November 1985)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Ruapehu (New Zealand) Crater lake upwelling; higher temperatures

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1985. Report on Ruapehu (New Zealand) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 10:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198511-241100


New Zealand

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Park Ranger Paul Dale witnessed a large upwelling and surging of the lake on 31 October at 1342, lasting 30-40 seconds and producing [25 cm] waves on the shore. The lake temperature at 1405 was 26.5°C with an outflow rate of 150 l/s, a significant increase from the 20.0°C temperature and water level 0.1-0.2 m below overflow recorded on 17 October. Fresh ash was not present on the snow. Pilot Bruce Williams, flying just E of the mountain on 11 November at 1100, reported steam accompanying strong upwelling in the lake center. He considered the lake to be in the most agitated state he had observed since witnessing a relatively large eruption 4 years ago; the activity was also observed by a Geyserland Airways pilot.

During a 15 November inspection by NZGS personnel, the lake was gray with scattered yellow sulfur slicks, in contrast to the 17 October observation of dark concentric rings of sulfur. An upwelling of muddy water occurred at 1027, doming to 2 m above the lake surface, and generating steam and 0.5 m waves near the center of the lake. At 1336 water domed to 4-5 m, producing 1 m waves. The waves did not further erode the low-lying snow or generate significant surges in the outlet channel, illustrating the difficulty of detecting evidence for small events. The upwellings observed during the November inspection were smaller than some seen during a period of apparently similar activity in May (10:05). A minor inflationary extension measured on 17-18 October had reversed by 15 November. Tremor and volcanic earthquakes increased in magnitude in October. Seismic records 4-10 November included both low- (~2 Hz) and high-frequency (~5 Hz) tremor of generally low amplitude. Some small B-type events were recorded on 4 November and very shallow earthquakes (L-shocks) were common. During the geologists' 15 November observations, seismometers recorded low-frequency (2 Hz) tremor.

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, NZGS, Wairakei.