White Island

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  • Country
  • Subregion Name
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 37.52°S
  • 177.18°E

  • 321 m
    1053 ft

  • 241040
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

22 January-28 January 2014

On 22 January, the GeoNet Data Centre reported that the Volcanic Alert Level for White Island remained at 1 and the Aviation Colour Code remained Green. Since a moderate eruption on 11 October 2013, seismicity had remained at low levels while gas flux was elevated. Sulfur dioxide flux ranged from 133 to 924 tonnes per day, higher than levels before 2012 when daily averages were less than 300 tonnes. The level of the water in Crater Lake continued to rise, and was about 5 m deeper than in late 2013. Temperature measurements with a recently acquired thermal Infrared camera confirm that hot gases were rising from vents on the lava dome; temperatures at the vents were 200-330 degrees Celsius, and over 400 degrees at one vent.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project



 Available Weekly Reports


2014: January
2013: January | February | March | April | July | August | October
2012: August | December
2008: October
2007: February
2001: February
2000: November


22 January-28 January 2014

On 22 January, the GeoNet Data Centre reported that the Volcanic Alert Level for White Island remained at 1 and the Aviation Colour Code remained Green. Since a moderate eruption on 11 October 2013, seismicity had remained at low levels while gas flux was elevated. Sulfur dioxide flux ranged from 133 to 924 tonnes per day, higher than levels before 2012 when daily averages were less than 300 tonnes. The level of the water in Crater Lake continued to rise, and was about 5 m deeper than in late 2013. Temperature measurements with a recently acquired thermal Infrared camera confirm that hot gases were rising from vents on the lava dome; temperatures at the vents were 200-330 degrees Celsius, and over 400 degrees at one vent.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


30 October-5 November 2013

On 4 November, the GeoNet Data Centre reported that the Volcanic Alert Level remained at 1 while the Aviation Colour Code was decreased from Yellow to Green. Since 11 October, seismicity and gas flux have remained at low levels, however, the volcano-hydrothermal system was considered unstable. GeoNet stated that eruptive activity could occur without prior warning and that current conditions permitted a range of eruptive activity.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


16 October-22 October 2013

On 21 October the GeoNet Data Centre reported that no further eruptive activity at White Island was detected after the eruption on 11 October, which ejected material over 350 m from the active vent and caused a wet surge cloud that enveloped the Main Crater. Volcanic tremor levels had decreased after the eruption and continued at variable levels. Gas flight measurements on 17 October showed that the SO2 flux was 450 tonnes per day, CO2 was 1,140 tonnes per day, and H2S was12 tonnes per day. The SO2 and H2S flux had changed very little, and CO2 had decreased from the previous measurements on 23 August. The Volcanic Alert Level was lowered to 1 and the Aviation Colour Code remained at Yellow.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


21 August-27 August 2013

The GeoNet Data Centre reported that after the eruption at White Island on 20 August, activity remained low through the next day. Steam-and-gas plumes continued to be emitted. During the afternoon on 21 August the Volcanic Alert Level was lowered to 1 and the Aviation Colour Code was lowered to Yellow.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


14 August-20 August 2013

The GeoNet Data Centre reported that a small eruption from White Island occurred at 1023 on 20 August and continued for about 10 minutes. The eruption ejected mud and rocks short distances, and generated a voluminous steam plume (visible from the Bay of Plenty coast), that rose 4 km a.s.l. and then slowly dispersed. Weather radar observations showed that a minor amount of ash was present in the plume. The Volcano Alert Level was raised to 2 (on a scale of 0-5) and the Aviation Colour Code was raised to Red (on a four-color scale). Later that day the Aviation Colour Code was lowered to Orange.

The eruption originated in the active crater area that had been ejecting small amounts of mud in recent weeks. A short period of strong volcanic tremor was detected the previous morning, but it was not clear if it was related to the eruption.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


31 July-6 August 2013

On 5 August GeoNet Data Centre reported that minor activity at White Island had declined; the bursts of steam, gas, and mud observed the previous week were no longer visible in web cam images. The elevated volcanic tremor had decreased to near-background levels. The Volcano Alert Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 0-5) and the Aviation Colour Code was lowered to Green (on a four-color scale).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


24 July-30 July 2013

GeoNet Data Centre reported that volcanic tremor levels at White Island increased overnight during 25-26 July; the increased seismicity and images of activity on web cameras prompted volcanologists to visit the volcano on 26 July. They noted audible jets of gas venting through the small lake, broader expanding “bubbles” of dark lake sediments, and debris ejected 20-30 m vertically. The Volcano Alert Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 0-5) and the Aviation Colour Code was increased to Yellow (on a four-color scale).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


3 July-9 July 2013

On 9 July GeoNet Data Centre reported that over the previous few weeks very small volcanic earthquakes occurred at White Island approximately every 70 seconds; the hundreds of small bursts created a unique daily pattern on the seismograph. The pattern of the volcanic earthquakes changed over time; the tremor bursts changed in size and frequency and sometimes merged into continuous tremor. Neither increased gas emissions nor changes in the hot lake and recently-erupted lava dome suggested that the process creating the earthquakes, possibly fluid moving through a crack, was occurring at depth. The Volcano Alert Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 0-5) and the Aviation Colour Code remained at Green (on a four-color scale).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


24 April-30 April 2013

On 29 April GeoNet Data Centre reported that activity at White Island remained at a persistently low level, characterized by tremor and degassing. No mud or ash eruptions had been observed since early April. A volcanologist visited the island the previous week and observed that increased rainfall had caused the two lakes to merge together into one larger lake. The temperature of the lake was 62 degrees Celsius and the lava-dome temperature was 200 degrees. The lower level of activity prompted GeoNet to reduce the Aviation Colour Code to Green (indicating no active eruption). The Volcano Alert Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 0-5).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


27 March-2 April 2013

On 26 March GeoNet Data Centre reported that a pattern of repeating minor activity at White Island had become established over the last month. Periods of passive steaming and degassing were accompanied by very low levels of volcanic tremor. This activity alternated with minor mud-and-steam explosions from the active crater when there was strong volcanic tremor. Sulfur dioxide gas measurements on 20 March were at similar levels to the past month, although carbon dioxide levels were higher. The Aviation Colour Code remained at Yellow and the Volcanic Alert Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 0-5).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


27 February-5 March 2013

On 4 March GeoNet Data Centre reported that during the previous week a small ash cone surrounded by a small moat of water had been built in the crater that formerly contained the hot lake. Ash emissions had ceased, therefore the Aviation Colour Code was lowered to Yellow and the Volcanic Alert Level was lowered to 1 (on a scale of 0-5). Seismic tremor levels were low, possibly because of the lack of water involvement in the current activity. Scientists aboard an overflight flight on 26 February measured around 600 tonnes per day of sulfur dioxide, and 1,950 tonnes per day of carbon dioxide, similar to other measurements made since the start of 2013.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


20 February-26 February 2013

GeoNet Data Centre reported that ash venting from White island occurred at about 1130 and 1330 on 23 February. The Aviation Colour Code was raised to Orange and the Volcanic Alert Level was raised to 2 (on a scale of 0-5). During a field investigation on 25 February scientists observed that ash emissions had ceased and small scale steam-and-gas explosions were occurring at the active vent. Volcanic tremor had also increased.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


6 February-12 February 2013

On 11 February GeoNet Data Centre reported that analysis of recent changes and measurements from White Island indicated that activity was lower than the previous week; therefore, the Aviation Colour Code was lowered to Yellow and the Volcanic Alert Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 0-5). The report also stated that early during the previous week the level of volcanic tremor recorded at White Island dropped to less than half that of the week before. At the same time small explosive eruptions in the active crater, which had been occurring for about three weeks, became less intense. On 7 February sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide gas measurements were similar to measurements from January: sulfur dioxide flux was 560 tonnes/day and carbon dioxide flux was 1,800 tonnes/day. A volcanologist that visited the lake area on 8 February noted that water had again filled the lake and small geysering was the only activity that he observed. The lake water was hot, about 80 degrees Celsius.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


30 January-5 February 2013

On 30 January GeoNet Data Centre reported that White Island's "hot lake" had dried up and a small tuff cone was forming on the former floor of the lake. The active vent continued to eject bursts of mud, rock, steam, and gas 50-100 m high. This activity along with the seismic activity was intermittent. Gas measurements taken during an overflight showed that the levels of volcanic gases emitted from the volcano were slightly higher than the levels measured the previous week: carbon dioxide gas flux increased from 1,800 to 2,000 tons/day, sulfur dioxide flux increased from 366 to 600 tons/day, and hydrogen sulfide flux was 19 tons/day (previously 15 tons/day). During 30-31 January seismicity changed to continuous tremor and remained at a high level. The Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange (second highest on a four-color scale) and the Volcanic Alert Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 0-5).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


23 January-29 January 2013

At 1600 on 24 January the GeoNet Data Centre reported that seismicity at White Island had changed during the previous 20-30 hours; volcanic tremor decreased while hybrid earthquakes appeared, which suggested magma movement within the volcano. The Aviation Colour Code was raised to Orange (second highest on a four-color scale) and the Volcanic Alert Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 0-5).

On 25 January scientists conducted an overflight to measure gas emissions and found that the levels were similar to those measured on 19 December 2012. The scientists observed vigorous mud geysering in the crater lake. Seismicity remained above background levels.

On 29 January continuous tremor that had been recorded during the past few weeks changed to intermittent tremor, which remained strong. The crater lake was drying out and frequent bursts of mud, steam, and gas were still vigorous; mud and rock were ejected tens of meters out of the lake area. Steam-and-gas plumes that rose from the crater were visible from the Bay of Plenty coastline. GNS Science's past monitoring of the island showed that weak ash eruptions had often followed drying out of the same type of mud-filled lake.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


16 January-22 January 2013

On 22 January GeoNet Data Centre reported that unrest at White Island continued. A volcanologist visiting the area on 21 January observed that hydrothermal activity in the small "hot lake" had increased. The lake surface "domed up" from rising steam and gas, that also brought large amounts of sediment to the surface, often with a vivid white steam-and-gas "flashing" from around the base. Stronger events periodically occurred. The report noted that the activity had been increasing since late 2012 and was now semi-continuous. The Aviation Colour Code remained at Yellow (second lowest on a four-color scale) and the Volcanic Alert Level remained at 1.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


2 January-8 January 2013

On 7 January GeoNet Data Centre reported that the Aviation Colour Code for White Island was lowered to Yellow (second lowest on a four-color scale) and the Volcanic Alert Level was lowered to 1. A spiny lava dome in the crater formed on 5 August was first clearly observed on 10 December. Observations on 20 December indicated that the dome had not changed. Scientists visited the area on 1 January and again observed no changes. They measured temperatures of 200-240 degrees Celsius from the lava dome and 70-80 degrees from the nearby hot lake, and observed lots of gas coming from the lake. The report also indicated continuing elevated levels of tremor.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


19 December-25 December 2012

On 20 December, GeoNet Data Centre reported that the spiny lava dome at White Island had not changed during the previous 10 days. No changes to the lava dome were noted when scientists compared photos taken on 19 December to previous ones, but several small lakes occupied parts of where a large lake was before August. The highest temperature reading from the lava dome was 187 degrees Celsius, the hot lake to the S was at least 71 degrees and upwelling strongly, and the cool lake on the N side of the dome was 35 degrees. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 0-5), and the Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange (second highest on a four-color scale).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


5 December-11 December 2012

On 12 December the GeoNet Data Centre posted a report describing a new lava dome at White Island that volcanologists recently noticed. The spiny lava dome was 20-30 m in diameter and grew in a crater formed during an eruption on 5 August. A prominent steam plume rose from the dome. Comments from tour operators at White Island suggested that the dome may have been visible two weeks earlier, but not as clearly as on 10 December. The Alert Level was raised to 2 (on a scale of 0-5), and the Aviation Colour Code was raised to Orange (second highest on a four-color scale).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


15 August-21 August 2012

On 17 August GeoNet Data Centre reported that that little to no ash was visible in the plume rising from White Island during the previous week. They also noted that seismicity was low and sulfur dioxide flux was at normal levels. The Alert Level was lowered to 1 (on a scale of 0-5), and the Aviation Colour Code remained at Yellow (second lowest on a four-color scale).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


8 August-14 August 2012

The GeoNet Data Centre reported that scientists visited White Island on 9 August and observed an ash plume rising as high as 300 m from a new vent in the SW corner of the 1978/1990 Crater Complex. Black ash was depositing on the wall of the Main Crater to the W of the vent. The vent had started to build a tuff cone and there were impact craters around it created by ejecta from explosions. There was no sign of impact craters or blocks outside of the 1978/1990 Crater area. During 9-14 August volcanic tremor remained at low levels and a weak ash-and-steam plume rose a few hundred meters from the vent. The plume color changed between white and gray as the ash content varied. On 13 August the Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 0-5), and the Aviation Colour Code was lowered to Yellow (second lowest on a four-color scale).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


1 August-7 August 2012

The GeoNet Data Centre reported that during 2011 and early 2012 White Island Crater Lake slowly evaporated, exposed steam vents, and formed two large muddy pools. Sometime between 27 July and 28 July, the lake level quickly rose 3-5 m. Vigorous gas-and-steam emissions through the new lake were observed from the air. Gas emission measurements on 1 August showed that sulfur dioxide had increased during the previous three months but carbon dioxide levels did not change.

Since early July there had been intermittent periods of volcanic tremor, including several hours early on 28 July and during 30-31 July. GeoNet noted that tremor was not uncommon at White Island but earlier in 2012 it had been at very low levels. A recent ground survey showed that the main crater floor was no longer subsiding and may have been slowly rising. The Alert Level remained at Level 1 (on a scale of 0-5), indicating signs of volcano unrest. The Aviation Colour Code increased to Yellow (second lowest on a four-color scale).

A particularly strong period of volcanic tremor was recorded during 4-5 August, and ended with an earthquake at 0454. Web camera images from between 0454 and 0457 showed an eruption from Crater Lake. This was the first time ash has been produced from White Island since 2000. [Correction: The last eruption occurred in 2001.] The Alert Level was raised to 2 and the Aviation Colour Code was raised to Orange. A steam plume rose from the crater on 5 August. Around 2330 on 7 August volcanic tremor sharply decreased to levels detected prior to the current episode of unrest. A few hours after this drop, the color of the plume changed from white to light brown, indicating more ash in the plume. Visual observations in the past few days showed that a small cone was building in the lake, around the main area of degassing.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


22 October-28 October 2008

White Island's Crater Lake has continued to rise since December 2007, after being almost completely evaporated in late October 2007. By 23 October the lake was reported to have risen 15 m and was beginning to affect the geothermal features on the Main Crater floor. New springs formed on the floor and old springs flowed again. The lake temperature remained hot at 57 degrees Celsius and the color had changed to light green, reflecting a decrease in suspended sediment. High-temperature fumaroles (101-103 degrees Celsius) were located on the S side of the Main Crater floor. Steam, gas, and mud emissions had increased from the largest vent during the previous few weeks. The Alert Level remained at Level 1 (on a scale of 0-5), indicating signs of volcano unrest.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


21 February-27 February 2007

Based on pilot and volcanologist reports, the Wellington VAAC reported that a steam plume from White Island rose to an altitude of 3.0 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l. on 23 February.

Source: Wellington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


14 February-20 February 2007

Recent visits to White Island's Crater Lake, including one on 13 February, have confirmed a continual rise in lake temperature since August 2006 from a normal range of 48-50°C. In January 2007, the temperature reached over 60°C. The last temperature measurement was 74°C, the highest ever recorded in the lake. The increased heat flow caused accelerated evaporation, and the lake level has dropped over 6 m. Steam plumes have been observed over the island. A deformation survey of the crater floor showed no significant changes from recent months.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


21 February-27 February 2001

Based on reports from White Island tour operators, the IGNS stated that on 19 February minor ash eruptions began at White Island. A light gray plume of fine ash rose ~2 km above the MH vent and drifted towards the mainland. Fine ash was deposited on and near White Island, but only an acid aerosol cloud reached the mainland near the town of Matata. IGNS personnel concluded that the ash eruptions on the 19th were similar to recent eruptive activity at the volcano, therefore White Island remained at Alert Level 1.

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


15 November-21 November 2000

A slight increase in activity occurred during the week, with steam-and-gas emissions and a loud noise from the active MH vent. By 16 November a small new vent SE of the MH vent was also steaming. The increase in activity was not accompanied by any significant seismic activity. White Island is at Alert Level 1 (ranging from 0 to 5).

Source: New Zealand GeoNet Project


Summary of eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
2012 Aug 7 2013 Aug 20 (in or after) Confirmed 2 Historical Observations 1978/90 Crater Complex
2001 Feb 19 2001 Feb 19 (?) Confirmed 2 Historical Observations MH vent
2000 Mar 7 2000 Sep 5 ± 4 days Confirmed 3 Historical Observations MH vent
1998 Aug 22 1999 Aug Confirmed 2 Historical Observations NW corner of 1978/90 crater complex
1998 Mar 28 1998 Mar 29 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
1995 Jun 28 (?) 1995 Jun 29 (?) Confirmed 1 Historical Observations Wade Crater
1986 Feb 1 (?) 1994 Jul 28 Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Congress and numerous other craters
1983 Dec 26 ± 5 days 1984 Feb 12 ± 5 days Confirmed 2 Historical Observations North margin of 1978 crater complex
[ 1982 Jul 1 ] [ Unknown ] Discredited    
1976 Dec 18 1982 Jan 29 Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Christmas, Gibrus, and 1978 craters
1974 Sep 8 ± 10 days Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations SE of Donald Mound,
1971 Jul 19 1971 Jul 20 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations South of Rudolf (1971 crater)
1971 Apr 9 ± 3 days Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Noisy Nellie Crater
1970 Jun 30 ± 30 days Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Rudolf vent
1969 Aug 1969 Sep Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Rudolf vent
1968 Jan 27 1969 Feb Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Rudolf vent (back wall of 1933 crater)
1966 Nov 13 1967 Mar Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Gilliver Crater
1962 Dec 15 Unknown Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Big John Crater
1959 Dec 14 1959 Dec 20 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Noisy Nellie Crater
1958 Dec Unknown Confirmed 1 Historical Observations Noisy Nellie and 1933 craters
1957 Dec 11 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1955 Jan Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1947 Jan (in or before) Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Noisy Nellie Crater
1933 Apr 2 Unknown Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Foot of crater ridge (1933 crater)
1930 Mar 16 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1928 Sep 1 1928 Sep 3 ± 1 days Confirmed 1 Historical Observations Between Big Donald and Lot's Wife
1926 Feb 3 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Little Donald vent
1924 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations North end of crater (Schuberts Fairy?)
1922 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations NW end of crater (Lot's Wife vent)
[ 1914 Sep 10 (?) ] [ Unknown ] Discredited    
1909 May 13 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
[ 1908 Nov 28 ] [ 1908 Dec 6 ] Uncertain 2  
1886 Sep 16 1886 Dec (?) Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
[ 1886 Jun 10 ] [ 1886 Jun 15 ] Uncertain 2  
1885 Oct Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations West end of crater
[ 1885 Jan ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1856 ± 8 years ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
1836 ± 2 years Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1826 Dec 1 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations

The following references are the sources used for data regarding this volcano. References are linked directly to our volcano data file. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title. Additional discussion of data sources can be found under Volcano Data Criteria.

Clark R H, Cole J W, 1986. White Island. Roy Soc New Zeal Bull, 23: 169-178.

Cole J W, Thordarson T, Burt R M, 2000. Magma origin and evolution of White Island (Whakaari) volcano, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. J Petr, 41: 867-895.

Green J, Short N M, 1971. Volcanic Landforms and Surface Features: a Photographic Atlas and Glossary. New York: Springer-Verlag, 519 p.

Hackett W R, Houghton B F, 1986. Active composite volcanoes of Taupo volcanic zone (Tour Guide C4). New Zeal Geol Surv Rec, 11: 61-114.

Hamilton W M, Baumgart I L, 1959. White Island. New Zeal Dept Sci Ind Res Bull, 127: 1-84.

Houghton B F, Nairn I A, 1991. The 1976-1982 Strombolian and phreatomagmatic eruptions of White Island, New Zealand: eruptive and depositional mechanisms at a 'wet' volcano. Bull Volc, 54: 25-49.

IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior..

Mongillo M A, Wood C P, 1995. Thermal infrared mapping of White Island volcano, New Zealand. J Volc Geotherm Res, 69: 59-71.

Nairn I A, Cole J W, 1975. New Zealand. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World and Solfatara Fields, Rome: IAVCEI, 22: 1-156.

Nairn I A, Houghton B F, Cole J F, 1991. Volcanic hazards at White Island. New Zeal Ministry Civil Defense, Volc Hazards Inf Ser, 3: 1-25.

Wood C P, Browne P R L, 1996. Chlorine-rich pyrometamorphic magma at White Island volcano, New Zealand. J Volc Geotherm Res, 72: 21-35.

Uninhabited 2 x 2.4 km White Island, one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes, is the emergent summit of a 16 x 18 km submarine volcano in the Bay of Plenty about 50 km offshore of North Island. The 321-m-high island consists of two overlapping andesitic-to-dacitic stratovolcanoes; the summit crater appears to be breached to the SE because the shoreline corresponds to the level of several notches in the SE crater wall. Volckner Rocks, four sea stacks that are remnants of a lava dome, lie 5 km NNE of White Island. Intermittent moderate phreatomagmatic and strombolian eruptions have occurred at White Island throughout the short historical period beginning in 1826, but its activity also forms a prominent part of Maori legends. Formation of many new vents during the 19th and 20th centuries has produced rapid changes in crater floor topography. Collapse of the crater wall in 1914 produced a debris avalanche that buried buildings and workers at a sulfur-mining project.