Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — 10 June-16 June 2020
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 10 June-16 June 2020
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2020. Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 10 June-16 June 2020. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
On 16 June GeoNet reported that during the previous few months activity levels at Whakaari/White Island had gradually progressed on a downward trend based on the volcano monitoring team’s collective interpretation of all the monitoring data. Temperatures at the gas vents remained high (over 450 degrees Celsius) though a slow decline in heat input from depth has been recorded. Although magma remained at a shallow depth, an estimated 1 km below the surface, gas discharge and ground deformation were not increasing. Additionally, seismic activity, specifically the level of volcanic tremor, had been low since February-March. The Volcanic Alert Level was lowered to 1 and the Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow.
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.