New Zealand’s Taupo volcano, responsible for largest eruption in 5000 years, has alert level raised

New Zealand volcano which caused the world’s largest eruption of the past 5000 years is in danger blowing its top as alert level is raised

  • New Zealand volcano has danger level raised for the first time to one
  • The Taupo volcano is responsible for the largest eruption in the last 5000 years
  • GeoNet say the chance of the volcano exploding is still ‘very low’

Fears are rising that a massive New Zealand volcano could erupt after 700 small tremors rocked the site.

The Taupo volcano – which sits below the country’s biggest lake – exploded approximately 1800 years ago, firing more than 100 cubic kilometres of material into the air, in what is the world’s largest eruption in the last 5000 years.

GeoNet, who are responsible for the volcano alert system, said for the first time ever they have raised the Taupo volcano alert to level 1. 

The alert system has six escalating levels of unrest, with zero being the lowest threat.

In 2019, New Zealand’s White Island volcano – known as Whakaari – suddenly erupted killing 22 people, 14 of who were Australians, and seriously injured 25 tourists. 

Scientists are on red alert raising the danger level on the Taupo volcano (pictured) in New Zealand, responsible for the world's largest eruption in the last 5000 years

Scientists are on red alert raising the danger level on the Taupo volcano (pictured) in New Zealand, responsible for the world’s largest eruption in the last 5000 years

In 2019, New Zealand's White Island volcano - known as Whakaari - suddenly erupted killing 22 people, 14 of who were Australians and seriously injured 25 tourists

In 2019, New Zealand’s White Island volcano – known as Whakaari – suddenly erupted killing 22 people, 14 of who were Australians and seriously injured 25 tourists

New Zealanders are always on alert due to sitting on the boundary of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates, meaning the country often experiences significant earthquakes and volcano activity.

In recent weeks about 700 small earthquakes were detected below Lake Taupo. 

While the level has been raised, GeoNet say this is not the first time there has been unrest at the volcano and that the chances of an eruption remain ‘very low’.

Duty volcanologist Steven Sherburn told Stuff there had been 17 previous cases of unrest at the site in the last 150 years.

‘There has been an increase in earthquakes and deformation (ground movement) at Taupo since May 2022 indicating volcanic unrest is occurring,’ he said.

‘Several of these were more severe than what we are currently observing at Taupo.’

Mr Sherburn said the last Taupo eruption was estimated to be approximately 232AD and said the chance of another eruption is ‘very low’.  

While the alert level has been raised, GeoNet say this is not the first time there has been unrest at the volcano and the chances of an eruption remain very low

While the alert level has been raised, GeoNet say this is not the first time there has been unrest at the volcano and the chances of an eruption remain very low

Caroline Glass, who was discussing what would happen if the volcano was to explode, wrote on question and answer website Quora, if it was to erupt most of the North island of New Zealand would be covered in sulfurous ash, ‘killing everything’.

‘There would have been a few days’ warning, but not enough capacity for everyone to get off the island in that time, so I think most of the population would be huddling in Northland and Wellington, hoping they were far enough away from the volcano to survive,’ Ms Glass said.

‘My understanding is that this would block out a lot of sunlight and leave the entire southern hemisphere cold, dim and wintry for several years.’

When New Zealand’s White Island volcano erupted tourists and tour guides on the island either died or were seriously burned.

The volcano erupted on December 9, 2019, triggering a powerful mushroom cloud of gas, steam and ash more than 3,600m into the air.

The eruption, which killed 22 people and seriously injured 25, became New Zealand’s deadliest volcanic disaster since the eruption of Mount Tarawera of 1886.

In June, Stephanie Browitt, who survived the White Island volcano eruption suffered burns to 70 per cent of her body and spent two weeks in a coma fighting for life.

Removing the face covering, Stephanie said she has had to overcome her fear of judgement

White Island volcano survivor Stephanie Browitt (pictured)

White Island volcano survivor Stephanie Browitt (pictured)

Appearing on 60Minutes she unveiled her face for the first time in two and a half years and said ‘she now sees ‘a person who has gone through much more than I ever expected in life’.

Stephanie was stuck on the island for hours before she and her father were rescued and eventually airlifted back to hospital in Australia, with her father dying from his injuries a month after the blast.

Stephanie said she hopes her 21-year-old sister Krystal (pictured right) and father Paul are watching over her and her mother

Stephanie (left) was stuck on the island for hours before she and her father were rescued and eventually airlifted back to hospital in Australia, with her father dying from his injuries a month after the blast 

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