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Auckland Sitting On Active Volcano


Scientist Researchers - Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences:

New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland, sits on an active volcanic field
that could produce a new volcano at any time, say researchers.

"Scenarios being considered include an eruption forming an offshore
island, one in the Tamaki Estuary, and three within 2km of the central
business district. Each case is expected to result in the evacuation of
100,000 to 150,000 people and major disruption to commerce and
services." says project co-ordinator David Johnston

An investment of the Public Good Science Fund has enabled scientists
to work with the Auckland Regional Council to better understand the
field and the hazards posed by such a volcano.

The group from the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences(GNS)
has developed five realistic eruption scenarios to illustrate what could
happen to Auckland's population, infrastructure and environment.

"Risk assessment of each scenario has revealed the extent of the social
and economic impact on the Auckland community," says Dr Johnston.

The research has also noted the importance of building relationships
among a range of organisations and community agencies representing
vulnerable groups.

Dr Johnston says the first of Auckland's 50 volcanoes started to
appear about 140,000 years ago.

"The life of the volcanic field is estimated at one million years so,
geologically speaking, the field is still young. There has been a trend
to bigger and more frequent eruptions around Auckland in the past
20,000 years. Rangitoto, the youngest and biggest volcano, formed
about 600 years ago."

"The lack of surface activity can lead to the false impression that the
Auckland volcanic field is extinct. But the hot spot of magma deep
below the city remains active and will almost certainly send up another
volcano in the future."

" The next eruption is unlikely to occur at an existing volcano.
Auckland tends to produce "single episode" volcanoes - after the
eruption the volcanic plumbing seals off and blocks the flow of future

GNS, in partnership with Massey University, is also researching how
much people know and understand about the vulnerability of New
Zealand to natural hazards. They are also evaluating methods of
improving the effectiveness of hazard education programmes.

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