Confirmed eruption at Mt Tongariro

Source: Global Volcanism Program. Photo by Jim Cole, 1974 (University of Canterbury)

This post will most likely be updated fairly quickly as news come up and we get more information.

It seems like Mt Tongariros awaited eruption has started. The eruption seems to be generated out of the Te Mari Craters. Witnesses report an ash column that exceeds 6 000 meters with steady lightning. There are also reports of lava bombs or incandescent lava slabs being ejected from the volcanic vent located on the side of the mountain. That witnesses talk about a hole in the side of the mountain points towards a new crater in the Te Mari crater-area.

Tongariro is a part of the Taupo volcanic belt. It is one of the most prolific volcanoes in New Zeeland. The last eruption was in 1977. During the last 115 years it has erupted 49 times through the southern crater complex, Ngauruhoe, while the Te Mari crater has been dormant. The Eruption follows magmatic emplacements during 2006 and 2009 and increased activity during the last few weeks.

The Ngauruhoe eruptions have been moderately explosive with only 3 eruptions ranging VEI-3; the others have been predominantly VEI-2 eruptions with just a few being even smaller. 550 BC there was the last larger eruption, a VEI-5 out of Ngauruhoe crater. The last VEI-5 out of Te Mari crater was 9350 BC.

There is currently nothing pointing towards this eruption going to exceed a VEI-3 eruption. One should though note that eruptions from previously semi-dormant craters in a complex andesitic volcano can be livelier than the previous eruptions from a well used crater part.

Source: Global Volcaniism Program. Photo by Graham Hancocks, 1975 (New Zealand Geological Survey)

The amount of activity and height of initial ash column seems to point more towards a small VEI-3 than a VEI-2. So there is some cause for concern for those who live close by.

This post will be updated as soon as we get more news. For latest news we recommend that you follow the comment thread. Expect that there will be a call for evacuation of locals soon.


Radio New Zealand News ( pointed out by IngeB )
Again another page on Radio NZ News
Bay of Plenty Times

GeoNet NZ Tongariro Activity
GeoNet NZ Seismometers called Drums

Webcam Tongariro
Other webcams listed, all are in Tongariro National park
One can watch a diashow of the “Rivercam” here.

Volcanic advisory Tongariro

GeoNet informations on Tongariro

Skiing the pacific “ring of fire” and beyond
Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Wikipedia Tongariro
Weekly Activity report Smithsonian
GVP Tongariro

Claude Grandpey on Tongario today!
And last but not least Erik Klemtti on Eruptions about this event.

Update by Spica


94 thoughts on “Confirmed eruption at Mt Tongariro

    • You’ve always been “éminente en decouvrir des caches d’information excellent”, but I think that today you’ve been matched by Spica!

  1. Since two major volcanoes are erupting in New Zealand I think we should have a rather juicy background for what is happening tomorrow.
    So if there is not a lot of important new, there will be something really beefy tomorrow from a Mysterious Writer.

  2. White island, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are part of the Kermadec – Collville Ridges by molten rock rising above the deeply diving Pacific Plate. The trough continues ashore into the Rotorua–Taupō area of New Zealand, where the land is also being stretched. You can see the Ash clouds also on the cams from Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu on being further away it is amazing to see

  3. According to the VAAC Wellington 20120806/1820Z report, the ashcloud went to FL200. That’s about 6.096 km and equates to a DRE rate of just under 131m³/s (Mastin et al) to 188 m³/s (Sparks)

    Not an extremely lively eruption.

    From the drum recordings, the festivity seems to have been short lived.

  4. there could possibly be a lahar since it is winter and we there has been a ‘bit ‘of snow around, it looks a bit of cough ans splatter, time will tell

    • Found sneaking around WUWT

      “Update: GNS, New Zealand’s monitoring agency says the eruption seems to be a steam driven event not magma.”

      If thats the case, this was a phreatic event. (water flashing to steam)

      That would mean that the temperature somewhere above 2.5 km deep has risen above the steam formation temperature. Below about 2.5 km, the hydrostatic pressure keeps it from flashing to steam. (not exact, but pretty #### close)

    • Doesn’t stop the lightning or the ash. Think “Maar”

      It’s an eruption either way, just steam driven.

      Essentially, it means that the main show could be yet to come.

      • Note, I don’t intend to infer that this is a Maar, just that the driving mechanism is pretty much the same. Maars can spit out quite a bit of mobilized ash/rock, and with that you get lightning.

        Given the VAAC warning height, and the amount of DRE equivalent, it was a pretty significant event… for being steam powered. Since it is likely a steam event… the DRE calcs are probably gonna be a bit off… to the high side.

        It still takes a lot of energy to break up that much material and loft it that high.

      • Yes, it is quite common for andesitic volcanoes to start with a steam eruption. And, it is often indicative of the size of the upcoming eruption.
        It was judging from this that I estimated an upcoming VEI-3 event together with level of harmonic tremor and earthquakes. Problem is just that I am not good at the behaviour of NZ volcanoes.

  5. Thanks Lurk and others for the links, i ll add them tonight ( work calls) and place the plot on the special plot page.
    998,917 unique views

  6. To give you an idea of the locality, here is a slide show of pics I took from the desert road from the direction where most of the ash fell. They are not very informative pics I am afraid as Tongariro was covered in cloud, but it might give you an idea of the distances involved. The first two photos are towards Tongariro and the last ones towards Ruapehu:

  7. Wow Spica! That was fast. I think you deserve an Olympic Gold for rooting out links! Thanks for a good. informative post Carl.
    Good morning, and G’day especially to any Kiwis who may join us today.Here is a good resume of the situation as it stands in New Zealand this morning.

    Stay Safe to our Kiwi friends in the area around the volcano and be careful of that Ash! It really is bad stuff to breath in! It may be worth wearing masks, like the Japanese do, if you are in an ashy area.
    Whilst we are waiting for the next, or even a main event, Volcanically, Google has a cute little time- waster to play with this morning.
    Game wise it is on a par with Google translation service.

    • Re. ashfall:
      After my experience with it in Iceland: It helps, if you are in the direction of ashfall, to tape the windowframes with broadband tape. Does perhaps not keep all of it away, but prevents some of the fine ash from entering – and this seems to be andesitic, so rather fine ash like the one of Eyjafjallajökull two years ago.
      Stay safe, and better be indoors, that’s really good advice.

      • I think I am in need of some more coffee:
        Intended to say: “prevents some of the fine ash from entering” — ähm — hope this is understandable … 😳
        Comment above edited by volcanocafe2 dragon. Please enjoy your coffee!

      • Hi Inge. Thank you for asking. I am now well into chocolate cake again although I am supposed to be cutting down. 😳
        As I have an over-abundance of courgettes on my veggie patch I am churning out Lemon Courgette cakes on a regular basis at the moment. They are almost yummier than chocolate cake but I have convinced myself as they are heavily vegetable based they are very good for you!!!!

  8. The Restingolitas from El Hierro’s eruption last November has 6 times the normal concentration of the two radioactive elements Thorium and Uran, they are not known in another lava or rock formation in the Canaries or most likely the world, according to chemical and radiology analysis.
    I translated this info from Manfred’s website (german)

    • To my surprise, the radioactive concentration is found in the white (center) part of the Restingolitas. Until now I thought the white part consisted of sediments from the seafloor. But wasn’t it stated that magma containing these radioactive elements has a very deep origin?

  9. psotion? No coffee yet. Position!
    Comment above edited by volcanocafe2 dragon. Please enjoy your coffee!

    • Thank you so much, your dragon-ness! Coffee is the best cure for the early morning ‘finger-farts’. Doesn’t work quite so well on the late-night beer-posts though!

  10. A local resident is reported as saying she has seen three new craters:

    “Bennett’s wife Robyn said she had not been able to sleep last night following the spectacular eruption.

    “It looked like a huge mushroom cloud. There’s a very strong sulphur smell in the air and it was very hard to breathe last night.”

    Robyn Bennett said she and her husband could still hear the mountain rumbling from their home this morning.

    “The ash plume is rolling down the side of the mountain. I feel safe and I am not leaving.”

    Robyn Bennett said if the mountain did blow “our house will be in the middle of it. The lava flow will come down the valley towards us.”

    She could see three new vents from her home.

    “They each look to be the size of the Ketetahi Springs.””

    • Sadly, it sounds like she will be among the first hit if (more like when) a pyroclastic cloud comes down the valley when the real eruption starts.
      I hope they will have an evacuation of the adjacent valleys soon.

      I agree with Lurking above, this was most likely just the opening stages as water exploded out. The main event has not even started yet.

  11. Ash fall: I had considerable ashfall when Grimsvotn erupted last year. Even being 200km away from the volcano. This was because wind directly brought ash in my direction. But other than the ash scratching your lungs and irritate your eyes and teeth, its not a big problem. Unless it is high in fluoride (toxic for animal fodder or your vegetable garden). It does help to close windows not to let ash enter your house. The rain is the blessing: it does clean the air and surfaces, so I always enjoy a good rain after the ash has been blowing with dry weather. 1 year later I don´t worry with ash fall from volcanoes unless they erupt right next to my house.

    • But it might be a problem for children, esp. the little ones which are next to the ground, for elderly people, people with respiratory problems (also asthma and allergies) as well as people with heart deseases. They should try to avoid volcanic ash and ashfall. 😦

  12. Some news:

    I spent the last days at Carl’s favourite volcano: Hengill, also its small neighbour Hrómundartindur, the southern end of Langjokull. And then also at Snaefellsjokull, Lysyholl and Ljósfjoll.

    I found many soil ash profiles. I have now so much to look at.

    What I found is interesting: Snaefellsjokull did had large ash eruptions in the past, which cover a signficant part of Iceland with white pumice. I found Snaefellsjokull white ash as far away as Thingvellir and I still don’t know if some of my former white bands could have been from it rather than Hekla. Its slopes, like Hekla, Askja and Oraefajokull, have large amounts of pumice from its past eruptions.

    One paper that Geolurking sent me, actually had stated that Snaefellsjokull did in fact had large ash eruptions in its past that were until now unknown. And this is worrying because it is a large and still active stratosvolcano, as large and apparently as explosive as Hekla.

    I also found what might be local ash from Hengill but I am unsure about it. Hrómundartindur did had an eruption in recent millenia, there is at least one lava field at its base, with an age I estimate in 2000-3000 years old, so quite recent. There is also geothermal springs at its slopes just like at its neighbour Hengill. However, to distinguish both volcanoes is subjective, there is a lot of what could be volcanic systems in the area. For example, further north, we found the fissures, craters and ridges south of Langjokull, which are probably an independent volcano of its own (last eruption there about 4000 years ago).

    Finally,near Snaefellsjokull there are two other active volcanic systems, Ljósfjoll and Lysholl, which have lava fields from recent millenia, and I think they might also had rhyolite ash from them.

    So, lots of less known and studies Icelandic volcanoes!

    • But Snaefellsjökull is one of the most famous Icelandic volcanoes (Jules Verne!). He is not unknown at all.

      Also is he known as one of the – not many – Icelandic stratovolcanoes. And one which covered the west of Iceland not only once in ash (last eruption around 1750 years ago – so long before settlement started in Iceland).

      It’s also because of it that Haraldur Sigurdsson asked repeatedly about better SIL covering for Snaefellsnes, but also because of Ljósufjöll another active volcanic system on Snaefellsnes peninsula, with last eruptions around time of settlement (10th cent.).

      There was some research done at Snaefellsjökull lately by students from Germany who discovered some small earthquakes series. They were in a depth of 9-13 m, and a lot of them in 28 m depth. Data – sadly – had to be taken out of the net.

  13. Furthermore, to Ursula and Renato, and on the 1258 mysterious volcanic eruption. Well, I agree that I have one or two thick white ash layers between both the 1477 Veidivotn and 870 Settlement ash layers. It might be one of them. Hekla erupted around those centuries but not near 1258. Neither Katla. We might have an unknown eruption of Askja or even more strangely from Snaefellsjokull. I found out really thick white layers from Snaefellsjokull, several ones, near the volcano and as I travelled away from it, decreasing in thickness, proving they are from Snaefellsjokull and not Hekla (at least some white layers). So now I am lost with a puzzle to figure out the identity and age of all these white layers, which might have originated from either Hekla, Snaefellsjokull, Askja and even Oraefajokull.

    I did not post yet, but I found a profile neaby, which is way better than the one from part I and part II, that shows plenty white ash layers, really many of them. And other spectacular profiles obtained near Snaefellsjokull.

    • Not that I want to claim the source for the 1258 event in Iceland. Because Iceland being settled at that time, an eruption would have been noticed and recorded. Hence, the mystery. I believe that most likely the eruption happened somewhere without people around. And therefore I doubt it might have happened in Iceland, but I do have bands around that time from Iceland, and I am unsure about where they came from (but my guess is Hekla and from other years: 1341 and 1104)

  14. Pingback: Mt. Doom in the news | Zoopraxiscope

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