It’s not over at White Island yet

Update, December 14, 2019, 5:08 p.m., Pacific: I’m going to unpin this post, since there has been no eruption and tremor has declined; however, the current GeoNet update does note that incandescent glow signifying great heat is observed at the active vent and that they still believe that a shallow magma body is degassing. The situation is certainly still iffy, but if anything else does occur it can get a new post.

Update, December 12, 2019, 10:57 a.m., Pacific time: Well, the volcano is holding, thankfully. However, per update #7 (they’re all listed here), GeoNet experts note:

Since the eruption on Monday, there has been no further eruptive activity. In the last few hours, volcanic tremor has decreased but it is still very high compared to normal levels. Vigorous steam and mud bursts continue from the active vent area.

The combined interpretation of our data is that magma is degassing at shallow depths and the situation remains highly volatile.

Another gas flight was completed today, and the data is currently being analysed to support our ongoing understanding of the volcano.

There is still a medium likelihood (50-60%) of eruptive activity in the next 24 hours. We have updated the eruption probability table.

There is an extremely low likelihood of any potential ash affecting the mainland, but people may smell gas, depending on the prevailing wind direction.

The Guardian is doing live updates again, right now on the body retrieval mission that was begun despite the high risk of further activity.


And here is a definition I found of “whānau.”

Original post:

You might want to get more familiar with this volcano, just off New Zealand’s northern coast. (And here’s the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program page on White Island.)

Per the latest GeoNet update (#5):

The level of volcanic tremor continues to rise and there is medium likelihood of future eruptive activity in the next 24 hours. The Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 3.

An eruption occurred at Whakaari/White Island at 2:11pm on Monday 9 December, unfortunately with tragic consequences. We express our ongoing sympathies with those families that continue to be affected.

Since our morning bulletin the level of volcanic tremor has continued to rise and is now at the highest level seen since the 2016 eruption.

Our interpretation of all our monitoring data to date, including yesterday’s gas flight is that shallow magma within the volcano is driving the tremor, gas flux, and jetting activity observed in the craters created during the eruption.

Earlier today we conducted an expert judgement and the result is that there is a medium likelihood (40-60% chance) of a future eruption within the next 24 hours.

There is an extremely low likelihood of any potential ash affecting the mainland, but people may smell gas, depending on the prevailing wind direction.

Meanwhile, here is The Guardian online blog of events around the recent tragedy (the blogging is on hold just now).

Featured image: A 2011 image of White Island by wehunts, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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