Volcanic alert level raised at Whakaari – White Island, New Zealand after earthquake swarm releases record amount of sulphur dioxide gas


Scientists have raised the Volcanic Alert Level at Whakaari – White Island to level 2, following moderate unrest on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. 

The island off the Bay of Plenty presents a greater likelihood of erupting as increased level of volcanic gases have been measured. Meanwhile the earthquake swarm continues.

Alert level raised at Whakaari – White Island, New Zealand after record quantity of sulphur dioxide gases is released in the air. Picture: MATT BOWN/ STUFF

GNS Science volcano information specialist Brad Scott said the level was raised after data showed changes in gas on the island, and the levels of unrest increased from low to moderate.

A statement on GeoNet’s website from GNS Science read: “our heightened monitoring of Whakaari as part of the response to recent earthquake swarms has shown an increase in sulphur dioxide gas flux to historically high levels.

A gas flight today detected 1886 tons/day of sulphur dioxide, nearly 3 times the previous values measured in May 2019. This is the highest value recorded since 2013 and the 2nd highest since regular measurements began in 2003.

Further gas measurements will be undertaken as soon as conditions allow. Nearby earthquake swarms are continuing although at lower levels than we reported on in previous bulletins. It is still unclear of the relationship of the earthquake swarms to the high sulphur dioxide observed today.

The change in gas flux represents a significant change in our background monitoring parameters at Whakaari and is consistent with moderate or heightened volcanic unrest. As such we have changed the Volcanic Alert Level to Level 2 and the Aviation Colour Code is raised to Yellow.

GNS Science and the National Geohazard Monitoring Centre continued to closely monitor the island for further signs of activity.”

In Rotorua on Wednesday geothermal activity caused a mudpool to explode out of a resident’s backyard. 

Last week a swarm of small earthquakes took place near the Bay of Plenty island. In May, a similar swarm of earthquakes occurred around Whakaari – White Island, with more than 300 earthquakes, centred 20km deep or less, recorded under the sea.

White Island’s latest eruption was in April 2016. Now is something coming in June/July 2019?

[Geonet gas, Geonet earthquake, Stuff]

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