The alert level has been raised at a supervolcano in New Zealand, sparking fears of a volcanic eruption.
When the Taupo last erupted around AD 232, it was the largest volcanic eruption on Earth in the last 5,000 years.
The largest volcanic eruption occurred 26,000 years ago around vast swathes of the North Island and is the most powerful volcanic eruption to rock our planet in the last 70,000 years.
And now experts have suggested that the volcano may be on its way to another eruption – potentially historic.
The official volcanic alert level (VAL) was raised from zero to one after 700 earthquakes were recorded in the area since May this year. Most of these earthquakes were too small to be felt, but the largest was a magnitude 4.5 earthquake.
It’s the first time the alert level has been raised – on a scale of zero to five – in Taupo, which lies under a lake.
The first level means that there is slight volcanic disturbance in the area, and scientists are asking people who live nearby to remain calm.
“Our understanding of current activity is based on new knowledge of past disturbances. It was particularly helped by the analysis of 2019 . activity [around the volcano]but also activity in 2008, and 17 other episodes of turbulence over the past 150 years,” GNS scientific volcanologist Stephen Sherburne told the Rotorua Daily Post.
“Had we known in 2019, 2008 and earlier what we know now, it is possible that VAL would have been elevated to VAL1 at those times as well,” he said.
“None of these episodes, or the many others that would have occurred over the past 1,800 years before written records were kept, ended with a volcanic eruption.”
GNS said the chance of a major eruption was low and that the magnitude was not a warning of an upcoming danger, but of volcanic movement in the area.
“Volcanic disturbances at volcanoes such as Taupo can last for months or years and will not lead to a volcanic eruption,” the agency said in a report.
“We interpret ground elevation and earthquake activity as caused by the movement of magma and hydrothermal fluids within the volcano.
“We’ve also sampled the springs and gas vents around the lake for changes in chemistry that may be related to the earthquake and ground lift.”
The two historic earthquakes in Taupo are unlikely to have resulted in any casualties because the settlers had not yet reached New Zealand. The closest people were the aborigines of Australia and the islanders of New Caledonia.
About 10 cm of ash is believed to have covered the entire North Island south of where Auckland is today, as well as the northern tip of the South Island.
Taupo is part of the same volcanic region as White Island, which erupted with devastating impact in 2019.
Twenty-two people, including 14 Australians, died when the volcano erupted while a cruise group from a cruise ship was on shore. And 25 others were wounded, most of them with severe burns.
Originally Posted as Eruption Fears Raised Massive Taupo Alert in New Zealand