Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — 8 December-14 December 2021
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
8 December-14 December 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, 8 December-14 December 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 results from a 10 December overflight of Whakaari/White Island, noting a significant increase of temperatures at the active vent area. Temperatures in the main vent area were as high as 516 degrees Celsius, an increase from the range of 202-264 degrees Celsius measured in both September and November; temperatures over 500 degrees Celsius were last recorded during July-August. Very minor ash emissions continued to be visible with deposits only extending around the active vents. Gas emissions had possibly decreased, though measurements had not been taken since 18 November. The water in the lake has receded likely due to recent weather conditions. 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.