Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — 14 September-20 September 2016
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 14 September-20 September 2016
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2016. Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 14 September-20 September 2016. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
Based on field observations of White Island on 14 September, GeoNet reported that the eruption which had occurred the day before had ceased. An analysis of collected ash deposits revealed no juvenile components. Seismic and acoustic activity remained low, and gas flux had not changed since before the eruption. On 15 September the Volcanic Alert Level was lowered to 2 and the Aviation Colour Code was lowered to Yellow. Observations during 17-18 September suggested no new sustained ash emissions (web camera images indicated that very minor amounts of ash may have been present in the steam plumes); the Volcanic Alert Level was lowered to 1.
Geologic Background. The uninhabited Whakaari/White Island is the 2 x 2.4 km emergent summit of a 16 x 18 km submarine volcano in the Bay of Plenty about 50 km offshore of North Island. The island consists of two overlapping andesitic-to-dacitic stratovolcanoes. The SE side of the crater is open at sea level, with the recent activity centered about 1 km from the shore close to the rear crater wall. Volckner Rocks, sea stacks that are remnants of a lava dome, lie 5 km NW. Descriptions of volcanism since 1826 have included intermittent moderate phreatic, phreatomagmatic, and Strombolian eruptions; activity there also forms a prominent part of Maori legends. The formation of many new vents during the 19th and 20th centuries caused rapid changes in crater floor topography. Collapse of the crater wall in 1914 produced a debris avalanche that buried buildings and workers at a sulfur-mining project. Explosive activity in December 2019 took place while tourists were present, resulting in many fatalities. The official government name Whakaari/White Island is a combination of the full Maori name of Te Puia o Whakaari ("The Dramatic Volcano") and White Island (referencing the constant steam plume) given by Captain James Cook in 1769.