Whakaari/White Island Volcano: Eruptive Episode Possible Amidst Increased Unrest

WhakaariWhite Island Volcano Eruptive Episode Possible Amidst Increased Unrest

A minor eruption occurred at Whakaari/White Island. The Volcanic Alert Level has been increased to 3. Photo GeoNet

Authorities have been closely monitoring the activity on Whakaari/White Island over the past few days and have raised concerns that the island may be entering a heightened state of unrest. A minor eruption occurred at the volcanic island, located off the Bay of Plenty coast, around 8.20am yesterday.

In response to the increased activity, the volcanic alert level has been raised to 3, out of a possible 5 levels. Duty volcanologist Yannik Behr stated that the activity observed over the past two days could continue in the coming days. This activity is characterized by energetic bursts of steam and gas, accompanied by small concentrations of ash.

Behr cautioned, “There are no clear signs that the eruptive activity will become much more energetic, but this could occur with little to no warning.” He further noted that if future eruptions were to become larger and produce volcanic ash, and should the wind direction change substantially, it is possible that ash could be dispersed onshore.

However, Behr reassured that based on the limited information available, there have been no clear indications of volcanic ash in the volcanic plumes to date. GNS Science is working closely with Emergency Management Bay of Plenty and other local authorities to ensure they have the necessary scientific information to provide public advice and keep people safe.

Emergency Management Bay of Plenty’s public information manager, Lisa Glass, advised in consultation with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council Harbourmaster, that all vessels should avoid the waters around Whakaari/White Island until further notice. Glass stated, “There is nothing to see, and people put themselves at risk of harm if there is a further eruption. There may also be debris and ashfall in the area around the island.”

Bay of Plenty Civil Defence stated via social media that land ashfall is unlikely. However, NZ Civil Defence advises that if there is ashfall, individuals should stay indoors, keep pets indoors, avoid attempting to clear ash from roofs while ash is falling, and avoid non-essential driving. If driving is necessary, individuals should drive slowly, maintain a safe following distance, use headlights on low beam, and avoid using wipers as ash can scratch windscreens.

The increased unrest on Whakaari/White Island is a cause for concern, especially in light of the tragic eruption on December 9, 2019, which resulted in the death of 22 people.


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