Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — 8 March-14 March 2023
Smithsonian Institution / US Geological Survey
Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 8 March-14 March 2023
Managing Editor: Sally Sennert.
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2023. Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) (Sennert, S, ed.). Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 8 March-14 March 2023. 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 continuing unrest at Whakaari/White Island characterized by significant gas-and-steam emissions and increasing gas emissions. Significant amounts of steam and gas at temperatures of around 240 degrees Celsius were measured during an observation flight on 2 March and a gas flight on 9 March. Gas emissions had increased but remained within normal limits. Large steam plumes, which were likely enhanced due to weather conditions, were visible from the mainland rising above the volcano on 5 March. Significant rain during the previous month raised the water levels in the crater lake and some of the smaller pools; geysering and bubbling from underwater fumaroles was visible. The Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow (the second lowest level on a four-color scale) and the Volcanic Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 0-5).
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.