Monday, August 19, 2013

Eruption on New Zealand island - Mackay Daily Mercury

Topics:  editors picks, eruptions, natue, news, new zealand

White Island erupted this morning, GNS Science has confirmed.

White plumes of ash were seen rising from the volcano off the coast of the Bay of Plenty at 10.23am.

GNS Science confirmed the smoke was part of a "small eruption" on the island.

It upgraded the aviation risk over the island to red, meaning it is unsafe to fly in the area.

A red-level aviation risk means an eruption is imminent and significant ash is expected to be emitted into the atmosphere, according to GNS Science.

The volcanic risk for White Island was raised to level two - meaning a minor eruption is in progress.

GNS Science volcanologist Craig Miller said the eruption could be part of a sequence leading to a bigger volcanic event.

White Island has experienced several minor eruptions over the last year and volcanologists have found magma "very near" to the surface of the volcano, he said.

"I don't think we could rule out future events at all...

"We're not expecting it to stop in the next day or two. The question is whether this is ramping up to a bigger event. That's something we'll be discussing amongst ourselves and alerting the public to once we've made our conclusion."

Miller said an eruption was unlikely to affect the Bay of Plenty - though it would be dangerous to anyone on White Island.

GNS had alerted tourist operators to the increased risk of heading out to the volcano, Miller said.

Eruptions on the island could happen at short notice, leaving tourists with no time to evacuate, he said.

"It could be the one day that it goes suddenly wrong and you have very little time to prepare for it or do anything about it once you're out there."

This morning's eruption would not trigger other volcanic events at nearby areas such as Mt Tararewa, Miller said.

"White Island pretty much acts independently."

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