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Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — 22 September-28 September 2021


Whakaari/White Island

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
22 September-28 September 2021
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2021. Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 22 September-28 September 2021. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (22 September-28 September 2021)

Whakaari/White Island

New Zealand

37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


On 27 September GeoNet reported results from an overflight of Whakaari/White Island the previous week. Gas measurements showed that sulfur dioxide emissions had increased to 680 tons per day from 450 tons per day recorded in mid-August, continuing the trend of an increasing emission rate noted over the past few months. The gas data suggested magma input deeper in the system. Temperatures in the main vent area notably decreased to 189 degrees Celsius from July and August measurements of 650 degrees, possibly indicating cooling caused by groundwater infiltration. Minor ash deposits from recent emissions were visible around the active vents. Seismicity was characterized by low levels of volcanic tremor and occasional low-frequency volcanic earthquakes. Subsidence continued to be measured by satellite. The Volcanic Alert Level remained at 2 and the Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow.

Geological Summary. 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.

Source: GeoNet