Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — 17 February-23 February 2021
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
17 February-23 February 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, 17 February-23 February 2021. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
GeoNet reported that beginning around 0220 on 19 February a series of short-lived, low-energy steam explosions at Whakaari/White Island were recorded for about 100 minutes by local seismic and acoustic instruments. Webcam images were dark due to the time of day; no trace ash deposits were visible. Tremor had begun around 2100 the night before and then ceased at 0550 when the steam explosions ended. Visual observations and gas flux measurements taken during an overflight on 18 February showed no changes compared to the previous month. The Volcanic Alert Level remained at 1 and the Aviation Color Code remained at Green.
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.