Taupo

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 38.82°S
  • 176°E

  • 760 m
    2493 ft

  • 241070
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

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Taupo, the most active rhyolitic volcano of the Taupo volcanic zone, is a large, roughly 35-km-wide caldera with poorly defined margins. It is a type example of an "inverse volcano" that slopes inward towards the most recent vent location. The caldera, now filled by Lake Taupo, largely formed as a result of the voluminous eruption of the Oruanui Tephra about 22,600 years before present (BP). This was the largest known eruption at Taupo, producing about 1170 cu km of tephra. This eruption was preceded during the late Pleistocene by the eruption of a large number of rhyolitic lava domes north of Lake Taupo. Large explosive eruptions have occurred frequently during the Holocene from many vents within Lake Taupo and near its margins. The most recent major eruption took place about 1800 years BP from at least three vents along a NE-SW-trending fissure centered on the Horomotangi Reefs. This extremely violent eruption was New Zealand's largest during the Holocene and produced the thin but widespread phreatoplinian Taupo Ignimbrite, which covered 20,000 sq km of North Island.

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

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
0260 (?) Unknown Confirmed 0 Tephrochronology East Lake Taupo (Horomatangi Reefs)
0233 Mar 15 ± 13 years ± 20 days Unknown Confirmed 6 Radiocarbon (corrected) Horomatangi Reefs area, Unit Y
0200 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) 4 km NW of Te Kohaiakahu Point, Unit X
0800 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 2 Tephrochronology Ouaha Hills, Unit W
1010 BCE ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) 4 km NW of Te Kohaiakahu Point, Unit V
1050 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) 5 km NE of Motutaiko Island, Unit U
1250 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) 4 km W of Te Kohaiakahu Point, Unit T
1460 BCE ± 40 years Unknown Confirmed 6 Radiocarbon (corrected) Horomatangi Reefs?, Unit S
2500 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) 3 km SW of Motutaiko Island, Unit R
2600 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) 3 km NW of Te Kohaiakahu Point, Unit Q
2800 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Tephrochronology Unit P
2850 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) 2 km S of Te Tuhi Point, Unit O
2900 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) 5 km NW of Te Kohaiakahu Point, Unit N
3070 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) 5 km NW of Te Kohaiakahu Point, Unit M
3120 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Tephrochronology 2 km W of Te Kohaiakahu Point, Unit L
3170 BCE ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) 4 km NW of Te Kohaiakahu Point, Unit K
3420 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Unit J
4000 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) Unit I
4100 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) 4 km WNW of Kohaiakahu Point, Unit H
4700 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (corrected) East-central Lake Taupo, Unit G
5100 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (corrected) SE Lake Taupo (Motutaiko Island) (Unit F)
8130 BCE ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed 5 Radiocarbon (corrected) Central, E-central L. Taupo (Opepe), Unit E
9210 BCE (?) Unknown Confirmed 4 Tephrochronology Acacia Bay lava dome, Unit D
9240 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 5 Radiocarbon (corrected) 4 km W of Te Kohaiakahu Point, Unit C (Poronui)
9460 BCE ± 200 years Unknown Confirmed 5 Radiocarbon (corrected) East-central Lake Taupo (Karapiti), Unit B

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Cones

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Horomatangi Reef Vent 38° 51' 0" S 175° 56' 0" E

Domes

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Ben Lomond Dome
Kuharua Dome 1129 m 38° 56' 0" S 175° 42' 0" E
Manganamu Dome 492 m 38° 59' 0" S 175° 47' 0" E
Marotiri Dome 733 m 38° 37' 0" S 175° 55' 0" E
Maunganamu Dome 630 m 38° 44' 0" S 176° 8' 0" E
Motuapu Dome 496 m 38° 56' 0" S 175° 52' 0" E
Motukaiko Dome 442 m 38° 52' 0" S 175° 57' 0" E
Motuma Dome 647 m 38° 38' 0" S 175° 51' 0" E
Ouaha Dome 630 m 38° 51' 0" S 176° 2' 0" E
Pukekaikiore Dome 748 m 38° 54' 0" S 175° 44' 0" E
Rangitukua Dome 726 m 38° 52' 0" S 175° 46' 0" E
Tahunatara Dome 651 m 38° 43' 0" S 175° 58' 0" E
Tauhara Dome 1087 m 38° 42' 0" S 176° 10' 0" E
Tuhingamata Dome 661 m 38° 43' 0" S 176° 0' 0" E

Thermal

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Hipaua Thermal 38° 58' 0" S 175° 44' 0" E
Tauhara-Taupo Thermal 460 m 38° 41' 31" S 176° 6' 0" E
Te Hoata Thermal
Te Pupu Thermal
Tokaanu Thermal
Waihi-Tokaanu Thermal 915 m 38° 58' 0" S 175° 46' 0" E
An aerial view shows the east margin of Lake Taupo with Taupo City on its shores. The 35-km-wide caldera is not topographically prominent but has been the source of powerful rhyolitic eruptions from the late Pleistocene throughout the Holocene. The 35,000-year-old Tauhara lava dome forms the prominent peak in the background.

Photo by Jim Healy (New Zealand Geological Survey).
Volcanologists Colin Wilson and Peter Bellance examine a roadcut that dissects deposits of major eruptions from the Taupo volcanic center. The unit at the level of the feet of the volcanologists is an exposure of an unwelded pyroclastic-flow deposit from the Oruanui eruption, which formed Taupo's initial caldera about 22,600 years ago. Light-colored airfall-pumice deposits from other major eruptions occur between it and the deposits of the 1800-year-old Taupo eruption (upper right), which were responsible for Taupo's second caldera.

Photo by Bruce Houghton (Wairakei Research Center).
This telephoto view looking SW across Lake Taupo, the southernmost major caldera of the Taupo volcanic zone, shows several major peaks anchoring the southern end of the Taupo volcanic zone. The broad forested peak below the center horizon is the Pleistocene Pihanga volcano. The steep-sided cone on the horizon to its right is Nguaruhoe, the youngest volcano of the Tongarior complex. The broad massif to its right is Tongariro. The snow-capped massif on the left-center horizon is Ruapehu.

Photo by Tom Simkin, 1986 (Smithsonian Institution).
Lake Taupo fills a topographically indistinct, roughly 35-km-wide caldera that is the site of the most prolific rhyolitic volcano of the Taupo volcanic zone. The caldera was formed during two major explosive eruptions, the Oruanui eruption, roughly 22,600 years ago, and the Taupo eruption, about 1800 years ago. The latter was one of the world's largest Holocene eruptions. Additional plinian eruptions during the Holocene have produced widespread airfall-pumice deposits.

Photo by Richard Waitt, 1986 (U.S. Geological Survey).
This thick outcrop exposes deposits of the 1800-years-old Taupo eruption, one of the world's largest during the past 10,000 years. The Taupo eruption produced nearly 100 cu km of phreatomagmatic surge deposits, plinian airfall-tephra deposits, and the overlying Taupo ignimbrite, seen at the upper half of this photo above the thin, light-colored layers. The eruption occurred from a vent at Horomatangi Reefs, now submerged beneath Lake Taupo.

Photo by Richard Waitt, 1986 (U.S. Geological Survey).

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. 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.

Cole J W, Brown S J A, Burt R M, Beresford S W, Wilson C J N, 1998. Lithic types in ignimbrites as a guide to the evolution of a caldera complex, Taupo volcanic centre, New Zealand. J Volc Geotherm Res, 80: 217-237.

de Ronde C E J, Stoffers P, Garbe-Schonberg D, Christenson B W, Jones B, Manconi R, Browne P R L, Hissmann K, Botz R, Davy B W, Schmitt M, Battershill C N, 2002. Discovery of active hydrothermal venting in Lake Taupo, New Zealand. J Volc Geotherm Res, 115: 257-275.

Froggatt P C, Lowe D J, 1990. A review of late Quaternary silicic and some other tephra formations from New Zealand: their stratigraphy, nomenclature, distribution, volume, and age. New Zeal J Geol Geophys, 33: 89-109.

Houghton B F, Carey R C, Cashman K V, Wilson C J N, Hobden B J, Hammer J E, 2010. Diverse patterns of ascent, degassing, and eruption of rhyolite magma during the 1.8 ka Taupo eruption, New Zealand: Evidence from clast vesicularity. J Volc Geotherm Res, 195: 31-47.

Houghton B F, Wilson C J N, 1986. Explosive rhyolite volcanism: the case studies of Mayor Island and Taupo volcanoes (Tour Guide A1). New Zeal Geol Surv Rec, 12: 33-100.

Kissling W M, Weir G J, 2005. The spatial distribution of the geothermal fields in the Taupo volcanic zone, New Zealand. J Volc Geotherm Res, 145: 136-150.

Lowe D J, Shane P A R, Allowayc B V, Newnham R M, 2008. Fingerprints and age models for widespread New Zealand tephra marker beds erupted since 30,000 years ago: a framework for NZ-INTIMATE. Quat Sci Rev,.

McClelland E, Wilson C J N, Bardot L, 2004. Paleotemperature determinations for the 1.8-ka Taupo ignimbrite, New Zealand, and implications for the emplacement history of a high-velocity pyroclastic flow. Bull Volc, 66: 492-513.

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

Shane P, Hoverd J, 2002. Distal record of multi-sourced tephra in Onepoto Basin, Auckland, New Zealand: implications for volcanic chronology, frequency and hazards. Bull Volc, 64: 441-454.

Smith R T, Houghton B F, 1995. Vent migration and changing eruptive style during the 1800a Taupo eruption: new evidence from the Hatepe and Rotongaio phreatoplinian ashes. Bull Volc, 57: 432-439.

Smith V C, Shane P, Nairn I A, 2005. Trends in rhyolite geochemistry, mineralogy, and magma storage during the last 50 kyr at Okataina and Taupo volcanic centres, Taupo volcanic zone, New Zealand. J Volc Geotherm Res, 148: 372-406.

Spinks K D, Acocella V, Cole J W, Bassett K N, 2005. Structural control of volcanism and caldera development in the transtensional Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. J Volc Geotherm Res, 144: 7-22.

Spinks K D, Cole J W, Leonard G S, 2004. Caldera volcanism in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Geol Soc New Zeal, New Zeal Geophys Soc, 26th New Zeal Geotherm Workshop, 6th-9th Dec 2004, Great Lake Centre, Taupo, Field Trip Guides, 7: 110-135.

Stevenson R J, Dingwell D B, Bagdassarov N S, Manley C R, 2001. Measurement and implication of "effective" viscosity for rhyolite flow emplacement. Bull Volc, 63: 227-237.

Sutton A N, Blake S , Wilson C J N, 1995. An outline geochemistry of rhyolite eruptives from Taupo volcanic centre, New Zealand. J Volc Geotherm Res, 68: 153-175.

Talbot J P, Self S, Wilson C J N, 1994. Dilute gravity current and rain-flushed ash deposits in the 1.8 km Hatepe Plinian deposit, Taupo, New Zealand. Bull Volc, 56: 538-551.

Vucetich C G, Pullar W A, 1973. Holocene tephra formations erupted in the Taupo Area, and interbedded tephras from other volcanic sources. New Zeal J Geol Geophys, 16: 745-780.

Wilson C J N, 1993. Stratigraphy, chronology, styles and dynamics of late Quaternary eruptions from Taupo volcano, New Zealand. Phil Trans Roy Soc London, Ser A, 343: 205-306.

Wilson C J N, 2001. The 26.5 ka Oruanui erupption, New Zealand: an introduction and overview. J Volc Geotherm Res, 112: 133-174.

Wilson C J N, Blake S, Charlier B L A, Sutton A N, 2006. The 26.5 ka Oruanui eruption, Taupo volcano, New Zealand: development, characteristics and evacuation of a large rhyolitic magma body. J Petr, 47: 35-69.

Wilson C J N, Gravley D M, Leonard G S, Rowland J V, 2009. Volcanism in the central Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand: tempo, styles and controls. In: Thordarson T, Self S, Larsen G, Rowland S K, Hoskuldsson A (eds), {Studies in Volcanology: The Legacy of George Walker}. Geol Soc London, p 225-247.

Wilson C J N, Houghton B F, Lloyd E F, 1986. Volcanic history and evolution of Maroa-Taupo area, central North Island. Roy Soc New Zeal Bull, 23: 194-223.

Wilson C J N, Houghton B F, McWilliams M O, Lanphere M A, Weaver S D, Briggs R M, 1995a. Volcanic and structural evolution of Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand: a review. J Volc Geotherm Res, 68: 1-28.

Wilson C J N, Rogan A M, Smith I E M, Northey D J, Nairn I A, Houghton B F, 1984. Caldera volcanoes of the Taupo volcanic zone, New Zealand. J Geophys Res, 89: 8463-8484.

Wilson C J N, Walker G P L, 1985. The Taupo eruption, New Zealand. I. General aspects. Phil Trans Roy Soc London, Ser A, 314: 199-228.

Volcano Types

Caldera
Lava dome(s)
Fissure vent(s)

Tectonic Setting

Subduction zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Major
Rhyolite
Minor
Dacite
Basalt / Picro-Basalt

Population

Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km
21,456
21,456
26,674
161,966

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Taupo Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.