Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — 4 March-10 March 2020
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
4 March-10 March 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, 4 March-10 March 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 10 March GeoNet reported that data collected during recent flights over White Island showed elevated gas emissions compared to previous measurements, though overall both carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide flux have decreased since the 9 December 2019 eruption. Thermal infrared data indicated that the fumarolic gases and the five lobes of lava in the main vent remained very hot; the hottest temperature was 746 degrees Celsius and was the highest temperature measured to date. Small-scale jetting occurred from the small pond that had formed in the vent area, similar to September-December 2019 activity. 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.