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White Island eruption – Expert Reaction

Tourists were present on Whakaari/White Island when its volcano erupted at 2.11pm today.


A report from GeoNet duty volcanologist Geoff Kilgour states the short-lived eruption generated an ash plume to ~12,000ft above the vent. The Volcanic Alert Level has decreased to Level 3 (out of a possible 5).

Safety advice is available via the National Emergency Management Agency (Civil Defence).

The SMC asked experts to comment on the eruption.

________________________________________

Professor Shane Cronin, Volcanologist, University of Auckland, comments:

"Sudden, unheralded eruptions from volcanoes such as White Island can be expected at any time. Magma is close to the surface, and the heat and gases from this heat the surface and ground waters to form vigorous hydrothermal systems. We know hydrothermal and so-called 'phreatic' eruptions can occur suddenly and with little or no warning because they are driven by the expansion of super-heated water into steam.

"The hazards expected from such events are the violent ejection of hot blocks and ash, and formation of 'hurricane-like' currents of wet ash and coarse particles that radiate from the explosion vent. These can be deadly in terms of causing impact trauma, burns and respiratory problems. The eruptions are short-lived, but once one occurs, there are high chances for further, generally smaller ones as the system re-equilibrates."

Declared conflict of interest: None


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