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Current Volcanic Activity

14 November 2013 - DOC Media Release

Volcanic risk advice in real-time on Tongariro Alpine Crossing

New electronic signs have been installed on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC), in a novel use of technology to help reduce people’s exposure to volcanic hazards along the track. The lights can be changed remotely by Department of Conservation staff using cellular technology. If information is received from GeoNet, GNS Science or the new Tongariro Eruption Detection System indicating the volcano is becoming more active or has erupted, DOC staff can immediately change the lights from green to orange or red, indicating increasing danger or track closure.

This is perhaps the first use of such a system in New Zealand, and their installation has facilitated the TAC remaining open during the busy summer season when there may be up to 1500 people on the track on any given day. The lights indicate the level of volcanic risk affecting the track and its affect on the status of the track i.e. whether the track is open or closed. It’s usually impossible for people to tell beforehand what the level of volcanic risk is, so the lights tell them. They can then make their own decisions about whether to proceed or turn around before they get into the volcanic hazard zones around the active craters.

Similar light sign systems are in place on a few active volcanoes elsewhere in the world where large numbers of visitors or residents are at significant risk. One notable example is Aso volcano in Japan where thousands of tourists may drive or travel in a gondola to the rim of the active vent each day. The lights in the gondola base station and on the crater rim advise people of the amount of sulphur dioxide gas in the air.

On the Tongariro Alpine Crossing the electronic light signs have been located in four places. Triple lights (red, orange and green) have been placed in the Mangatepopo and Ketetahi car parks at the entrances to the Crossing. Green means the volcanic risk is normal (not zero), and orange indicates the risk is elevated. Red means the risk is high, the track is closed and people should turn around and leave the area. Smaller single red lights signs with “Don’t walk” symbols are located at the boundary of the Active Volcanic Hazard Zone around the Te Maari craters that erupted in August and November last year. These activate only at times the track is closed.

The electronic lights are powered by small solar panels and batteries, and information on the lights status is posted on the webpage www.doc.govt.nz/volcanicrisk. Users should visit this page for more information on the lights and all aspects of the volcanic risks in Tongariro National Park.

An important note is these lights have nothing to do with the weather. The track is never opened or closed due to weather or snow conditions. People are aware of the weather and can get weather and avalanche forecasts. Therefore they must make their own decisions about the wisdom of walking the track if alpine conditions are too harsh or uncertain.

DOC - Media release

8 October 2013

Tongariro Alpine Crossing to remain open for the Summer

Great news for users of the iconic Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC). The Department of Conservation (DOC) announced today that the track will remain open for the summer trekking season, subject to any significant changes in the volcanic activity on the track.  DOC has been involved in two streams of work in the lead up to this decision. The first has been in association with GNS Science, Massey, Waikato and Canterbury Universities in collaboration with Ngati Hikairo to assess the level of risk posed by possible further eruptions from the Te Maari craters to trekkers on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track nearby. The second has been to develop a new range of tools to reduce risks. This has helped lead to the decision to allow the track to remain open as we head into the summer. The probability of a further eruption has declined sufficiently so that in association with the new tools the risk to the public has been brought down to a tolerable level.

“In this dynamic landscape we are always mindful of the risks it poses to people who use our track network,” says Meirene Hardy-Birch, Central Region Director of Services for the Department of Conservation. “It is an active volcanic area, and while this is an intrinsic part of its attraction to visitors, it poses challenges for all as we try to balance the public risks and benefits associated with it. We have encouraging data from GNS Science and GeoNet indicating the volcanic unrest under Te Maari is levelling. We have also had great support from the guiding and transport concessionaires on ways to better inform users of the Crossing about the hazards on the track. This combined with other risk mitigation measures DOC has put in place have allowed the track to remain open at this time.”

With the increased use expected for the summer, any escalation in the volcanic activity under the mountain would result in the status of the TAC being reviewed, as any eruption during this time could have disastrous results. In the meantime DOC reminds visitors to Tongariro National Park that eruptions can occur with little or no warning so it is advisable people don’t linger on the northern section of the TAC track between the Blue Lake and Ketetahi car park.

The DOC website has been updated to reflect the volcanic hazards around the TAC, and visitors should make themselves familiar with this before considering going across the TAC. There is also a suite of new signage at the car parks to inform people heading along the track.


7 August 2013

Volcanic Risk Update Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Department of Conservation is working closely with GNS Science following the recent slight increase in seismic activity on Mt Tongariro which GNS monitors regularly.

It has been a year since the 6 August 2012 eruption of Te Maari on the northern flanks of Mt Tongariro. This anniversary has coincided with a slight increase in seismic activity under Te Maari with several very small earthquakes recorded by GNS Science over the past two weeks.

GNS Science has not changed its 0 to 5-scale Volcanic Alert Level from 1 and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing remains open to visitors.

DOC Community Relations Manager Bhrent Guy says while the risk status of the region is unchanged, the activity is a timely reminder for visitors to heed warning signs in place and be aware of actions to take in the event of any indications of increased activity .

“Eruptions can occur with little or no warning so we are asking visitors not to linger on the northern section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track between the Blue Lake and Ketetahi car park.”

He says DOC receives regular updates of any volcanic activity occurring in the Tongariro area and will update its advice as necessary.

“In the meantime visitors just need to remember that Tongariro is an active volcanic zone and that there are risks associated with trekking in the area.”


23 April 2013

Hon Nick Smith - Minister of Conservation

Media Statement - Tongariro Alpine Crossing to re-open next month

The full Tongariro Alpine Crossing will re-open early next month in time for the winter trekking season, Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced today.

“The Department of Conservation is satisfied that the risks of future volcanic activity has dropped to a sufficiently low level that the full Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be re-opened. This decision has been made on the basis of risk assessments by GNS Science and peer reviewed by experts from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park,” Dr Smith said.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is New Zealand’s most popular walk attracting more than 71,000 trekkers each year. The track was closed after the eruption at the Te Maari Crater in August and again in November. The track was partially re-opened in December but an exclusion area means that people doing the crossing cannot complete it and need to do a return trip back to the Mangatepopo end.

“There can never be a 100 per cent guarantee of safety on an active volcano but the expert advice gives us sufficient confidence that the track can be re-opened. DOC will also be implementing additional measures in summer to improve visitor safety including electronic signboards that can be rapidly updated if volcanic unrest increases, increased eruption detection capability, additional advisory notices, and additional training of DOC staff and concessionaries.

The track will be fully re-opened on May 8. This decision is based on the current risk assessment and will have to be re-considered if there is any change in volcanic activity on the mountain.”

31 March, 2013

Options to re-open the full Tongariro Alpine Crossing for next summer after last year’s eruptions are being explored by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith, GNS Science, DOC staff, iwi, Taupo MP Louise Upston and representatives of the local tourism industry, during a visit over the weekend.

"The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk, attracting over 70,000 trampers and bringing an economic benefit to the Taupo region of more than $100 million each year. We need to explore all the options on how it might be possible to re-open the full crossing for the next season while responsibly managing public safety," Dr Smith says.

Tongariro erupted last August and again in November resulting in extensive damage to the Ketetahi Hut and sections of the track. It was possible in December to re-open a section of the track from the Mangatepopo end but an exclusion area around the Te Maari craters means trampers cannot complete the crossing and need to do a return trip.

"The re-opening of the full track is a difficult decision because there is always some risk in an active volcanic area and a 100 per cent safety guarantee has never and will never be possible. The dangers to trampers in an eruption event like what occurred last year are the raining down of large boulders and pyroclastic ash cloud flows that travel at immense speeds incinerating and poisoning everything in their path.

"Options to reduce risks include improved monitoring of seismic activity and gas levels so that warning systems can be quickly activated to get people off the mountain if activity levels increase. This is not fool-proof as eruptions can occur without any warning.

"Further options are being explored including the possibility of re-routing or developing sections of track away from the high risk area. This would take time, be of considerable expense and may prove to be a waste if the risk levels naturally subside or if the volcanic activity shifts to a different part of the mountain. Decisions on the way forward will be made on the best scientific advice available, with public safety being the priority.

"There are also practical problems at the Mangatepopo end of the crossing with so many trampers now having to return via the same route. I am exploring with the Department what extra facilities may be needed in respect of toilets, shelters and car parks to better accommodate the change in visitors’ use.

"Final decisions on which options to proceed with need to be made by the middle of the year so we can meet the demand when the 2013/14 summer season arrives and ensure the preservation of this significant cultural and spiritual icon of local iwi."


15 March 2013

Department of Conservation Media Release

Mt Ruapehu Summit Hazard Zone Restriction Lifted

The advisory warning people not to go within the 2km Summit Hazard Zone on Mt Ruapehu has been lifted.

DOC’s Ruapehu Area Manager Jonathan Maxwell says allowing guided trips and day visitors to once again trek to the summit is great news.

However visitors into the summit zone are strongly advised not to go past the Dome Equipment Shed or anywhere inside the crater basin within 400m of Crater Lake. “We have been very pleased that visitors have listened to our advice during the heightened period of volcanic activity over the past months and not gone into the Summit Hazard Zone. There is still opportunity before winter for people to make the trek to the summit, but they should still heed the warning to keep out of crater basin,” said Jonathan.

People are also strongly advised not to camp anywhere inside crater basin or on the summit plateau. As always people should stay out of the major lahar paths in the Whangaehu and Whakapapaiti valleys.

The decision to lift the advisory warning visitors not to enter the Summit Hazard Zone, has been made for a number of reasons. Most importantly the temperatures in the vent system some hundreds of metres below Crater Lake have returned to normal and there have been no volcanic earthquakes lately that would raise concerns. The Crater Lake temperatures have warmed slightly. In addition volcanic gas concentrations in the air above Crater Lake are at normal levels as well.

DOC Conservation Analyst Dr Harry Keys said, “Monitoring of Mt Ruapehu will continue and the Department of Conservation will be regularly updated with information from GNS and the GeoNet programme. However the public must be aware that Ruapehu is a living volcano and has shown to be unpredictable in the past. It is important that people understand the advice not to go within crater basin and certainly not down to the shore of Crater Lake. Even a very small burp beneath the lake could produce a sizeable wave across it or sideways jets of water which could endanger anyone standing on the lake shore or in the crater basin.”

With the summer months coming to an end the weather will become much cooler very quickly and visitors are asked to prepare themselves well when planning a trip to the summit. Information on the trek to the summit and updated weather can be picked up from the Whakapapa Visitor Centre.

6 March 2013

The Department of Conservation is pleased to announce the opening of a further section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  This will take effect from Saturday 9th March, 2013.

DOC Acting Area Manager Bhrent Guy says this is exciting news as it extends the open section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from the beautiful Emerald Lakes to the pass between Blue Lake and North Crater. Although it is only approximately another 1.5 kilometres it will allow visitors to have a great view to the north towards Lake Taupō and the Rotoaira Basin.

The Mangatepopo Road access to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is open but restricted due to limited car parking.  When the car parks are full, visitors need to use a local transport concessionaire to be taken to the start of the track. 

 “DOC staff are working very hard to manage the Mangatepopo Road and car park to give people the opportunity to access the track using their own vehicles.  However visitor numbers are still high and the majority of people will still need to use bus transport to the Mangatepopo car park.”

Bhrent advised visitors to book transport from one of the local  transport operators to avoid disappointment when the car parks were full.

Te Maari first erupted on August 6, then again on November 21 last year.  Monitoring of the volcanic activity at the site has been on-going and there are signs that the activity may be slowing. 

However scientific advice to the department indicates the risk of another eruption similar to the August event is still too high to allow public access to the track from Blue Lake Saddle to the Ketetahi car park.   This section will remain closed. 

A volcanic hazard zone remains in place around Te Maari extending out to 2 km in the south and 2.8 km in the north. Within this the one kilometre radius Rahui protective zone is still in place.

It is hoped that ongoing monitoring and risk assessment will allow a further review of the remaining section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing by the end of May or earlier.

 “DOC is committed to the re-opening of the remainder of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing when the risk assessment shows the risk to the public is within acceptable levels,” commented Bhrent.

Visitors to Tongariro National Park are reminded of the very sacred nature of the mountains.  All rubbish must be taken out of the park and visitors must know where toilets are located before they start their walks. 

“The tops of these mountains are sacred places and visitors are asked to respect them as they would their own home, says Bhrent.

The volcanic status of Mt Ruapehu remains unchanged since before the New Year with an advisory against entry into the two kilometre radius Summit Volcanic Zone still in place. 

Visitors are advised not to enter this zone on the summit of Mt Ruapehu as there is still a heightened risk of an eruption without any prior warning.  They are encouraged to take a chairlift ride to the Knoll Ridge and walk on the routes and tracks outside of the Summit Hazard Zone.

 However Dr Harry Keys from DOC has been working with information gathered from GNS Science and local pilots and he commented that, “Ongoing monitoring of volcanic conditions of Mt Ruapehu is pointing to reducing risks and therefore the possibility of reducing or removing the current advisory for entry into the Summit Volcanic Zone within the next 2-3 weeks.”

25 February 2013

As from Monday 25 February, the Mangatepopo Road will be re-opened to private vehicles until such time that the Mangatepopo car-park is full.  There is space for approximately 60 vehicles and once these spaces are filled the road will again be closed.  DOC staff will be at the car-park and at the Mangatepopo road end at SH47 to ensure a smooth flow of traffic.  Once the car-park is full any additional visitors will need to use a bus transport operator to access the car-park as at present.  Should any vehicles leave the carpark before 2.00 pm then additional vehicles will be allowed to replace them.  

20 December 2012

Media Release - Department of Conservation

Tongariro National Park Draws Large Numbers of Visitors

Large numbers of visitors are making Tongariro National Park Dual World Heritage Area a high priority on their must do list this summer.

While the northern section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing remains closed, visitor numbers have been so high on the Mangatepopo Road, which gives access to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track, that restrictions have been placed on the road and it is temporarily closed to private vehicles.

“The Mangatepopo Road has been temporarily closed to private vehicles because of heavy congestion in the carpark and along the road. The carpark was designed for a maximum of 67 vehicles but on some days recently up to 100 vehicles were being parked in the carpark and along the road,” said Ruapehu Area Manager Jonathan Maxwell. “While I understand the frustration some visitors may have in not being able to drive to the carpark, it is in the interests of public safety that the decision to close the road has been made.”

Visitors wishing to walk the Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to Red Crater are asked to book their transport from their accommodation. Bus concessionaires operate from Taupo, Turangi, SH 47, Whakapapa Village, National Park and Ohakune. The tracks to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are all open and both provide sensational hiking experiences fit and well equipped trampers.

The 2 km Mt Ruapehu Summit Hazard Zone remains in place and people are advised not to enter this zone due to the current heightened risk of volcanic hazard on Ruapehu.

However there are some great walking tracks on and around Mt Ruapehu and the chairlifts are operating to the Knoll Ridge café, the highest café in New Zealand. “The views from Knoll Ridge are stunning and the chairlift ride in summer is a great experience for young and old,” said Jonathan.

13 December 2012

Media Release - Department of Conservation

Volcanic action likely to mean busy summer in Tongariro National Park

The Department of Conservation says it is expecting a busy summer season in Tongariro National Park following heightened publicity after the recent volcanic activity.

DOC says summer is always a peak period for the park and the recent activity on both Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu has increased the region’s profile.

DOC’s Ruapehu Area manager, Jon Maxwell, said that a wide range of hiking, mountain biking and sightseeing activities are available on both mountains and much of the popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing Track remains open.

He says the mountains have been attracting big crowds recently and staff are gearing up for even more visitors over the next few months.

“Tongariro National Park offers visitors the unique opportunity to tackle world class walks whilst traversing a vibrant and dynamic active volcanic landscape,” said Mr Maxwell.

Mr Maxwell advised visitors that the Te Maari section of the Alpine Crossing closest to the most recent eruption will remain closed due to on-going volcanic activity, as will the recommended no go zone around Ruapehu’s Crater Lake.

“Gas and steam are still coming from Te Maari crater and GNS scientists tell us this area is still a potential risk for increased volcanic hazard in the foreseeable future. The Ruapehu crater lake activity is still not at normal background levels and is being closely monitored by GNS science. The Department will advise when the access recommendation changes.”

The Mangatepopo road and carpark are temporarily closed to the public, to relieve congestion issues while the Te Maari section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is closed. Visitors are encouraged to arrange their bus transport to the Alpine Crossing with bus operators from Taupo, Turangi, National Park Village, Whakapapa Village, Ohakune and SH 47 before leaving for the Crossing.

For the rest of the park it’s business as usual.

“Much of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is open, including what most consider the most scenic leg past Ngauruhoe and up to the Emerald Lakes, with its stunning volcanic landscape, and there are dozens of other tracks on both mountains to explore.”

DOC says GNS Science indicates the heightened volcanic state of Te Maari may continue for some months and the department will continue to monitor the situation closely.

30 November 2012

Trampers Flock to Tongario after Eruption

Opening ceremony at Mangatepopo 29 November 2012

Tourism operators in the Tongariro National Park are attributing a jump in visitor numbers to the recent volcanic activity.

Just over a week after the latest eruption, the Tongariro northern circuit track and part of the Tongariro alpine crossing have reopened today.

Tourism operators have reported a huge spike in business since the earlier eruption in August and say the volcanic activity has been great promotion for the tracks.

Mount Tongariro's eruption on November 21 saw flights cancelled, a Civil Defence alert issued, a three-kilometre exclusion zone set up around the mountain and Department of Conservation tracks closed within a three-kilometre radius of the crater.

The mountain is currently on a Volcanic Alert Level of one, which indicates signs of volcano unrest, and GeoNet indicates Mount Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu continue to be closely monitored for renewed activity.

The section of the crossing from Oturere Junction to Ketetahi Road remains closed at this stage and a protective restriction remains in place around the highest risk area within 1km of the Upper Te Maari Crater.

All other facilities, activities and alternative walking tracks are fully operational within the 80,000ha Tongariro National Park.

29 November 2012

Tongariro Track and Hut Closures Map - Click on the map to enlarge

27 November 2012

Tongariro Northern Circuit to re-open

The Department of Conservation plans to re-open the Tongariro Northern Circuit and part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on Thursday.

New signage and barriers will be in place in time for the tracks to Emerald Lakes and Oturere Valley to be open Thursday morning.

DOC’s Ruapehu Area Manager Jonathan Maxwell says staff have been working continually since last week’s event at Te Maari, looking at the science and potential hazards to have a current risk assessment and the confidence to re-open. GNS has also provided some advice.

“Visitor and staff safety in and around the park is paramount and that has always been our priority.

“The tracks being re-opened can not only be used safely but will provide visitors with an amazing enhanced national park experience.

“Tongariro National Park has world heritage status for it’s natural and cultural values. It is an active and living landscape and the recent events have left more exciting active features for people to view, film and photograph,” Jonathan says.

“Volcanic landscapes around the world including Tongariro are first class tourism venues attracting thousands of visitors each year. Tongariro with this recent activity may have just jumped up the world-wide must do list, to perhaps the top,” he says.

The department has continued to work closely with Ngāti Tūwharetoa through local hapu Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, and community and business leaders to re-open tracks as the eruption risk management area has been revised.

A blessing ceremony, Te Whakapainga (the journey to make right), will take place at Mangatepopo Road car park, on Wednesday in preparation for the re-opening to the public.

Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro spokesman Te Ngaehe Wanikau says the mountain has spoken again. It is very important that we have listened to what the maunga has said, and before we re-open the maunga (mountain) and the whenua (land) to the people, that we respect and honour it with a blessing.

A Rāhui (protective restriction) remains in place around Upper Te Maari Crater area having been placed there in mid October by Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro. The Rāhui upholds a traditional Maori custom (Tikanga Maori) to ensure the safety and protection of all people entering the region. The Rāhui covers the highest risk area within 1km of the crater and remains closed by DOC.

Members of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro hapu will continue to support the re-opening by welcoming trampers to the maunga and whenua at Mangatepopo car park. They will talk to visitors about the cultural significance of the maunga (mountain) and the land (whenua) as well as sharing some of the stories of our people says Te Ngaehe.

The Eruption Risk Management zoning has been reduced to a distance of 3kms around Upper Te Maari Crater. Facilities remain closed within this area, with the exception of the short distance of track to Emerald Lakes, the junction of the track in Oturere Valley, and down into Oturere Valley. This means that people can traverse the volcano via the Tongariro Northern Circuit around Mt Ngauruhoe.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing as a whole will take longer to re-open with the section of track from Oturere Junction to Ketetahi Road remaining closed at this stage. It will be re-opened as soon as the current risks are assessed by DOC as being sufficiently low to ensure public safety. This assessment will be based on the probability of significant hazards from further eruptions.

“We are working with the whole community – iwi, hapu, business leaders, tourism operators and agencies –to provide safe public access to one of New Zealand’s most special places,” Jonathan says.

All other facilities, activities and alternative walking tracks are fully operational within the 80,000ha Tongariro National Park.

26 November 2012

Plans to reopen part of Mt Tongariro Thursday

Sam Thompson, Newstalk ZB November 26, 2012, 2:34 pm

The Department of conservation is planning to reopen part of Mount Tongariro to the public on Thursday.  The Tongariro Crossing was evacuated after the Te Maari Crater erupted briefly on Wednesday.

DOC Spokesman Jonathan Maxwell says the risk of another volcanic eruption has been further downgraded by GNS Science.

"We're planning to open part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, up to Red Crater and Emerald Lake and that will include the northern circuits. That's a great opportunity for concessionaires and public to get back in there, but staying outside that exclusion zone."

26 November 2012

VOLCANIC ALERT BULLETIN: TONG – 2012/34
TONGARIRO VOLCANO
Volcanic Alert Level: 1 (changed from Level 2)
Aviation Colour Code: Yellow (no change)

1.30 pm Monday 26th November 2012

Volcanic Alert Level lowered to Level 1, activity low at Tongariro.

No further volcanic activity has occurred since the eruption on Wednesday. Gas flux has decreased and seismic activity remains low. GNS Science continues to closely monitor the situation. GNS volcanologist Brad Scott said; “GNS Science has now lowered the Volcanic Alert Level from Level 2 to Level 1. This is based on the lack of further eruptions, no volcanic ash in the plume, decrease in gas output and continuing minor seismic activity. Conditions are now similar to before the November 21 eruption. The Aviation Colour Code remains at Yellow”.

While we were able to recognise the onset of the state of unrest at Te Maari, we cannot recognise useful precursors to eruptions like last week.  Over the next week, the scenario considered most likely is that there may be further eruptions and these could occur with no warning. Despite the reduced gas output a gas odour can expected downwind from Tongariro.

Background
GNS Science usually measures volcanic gas output from a plane. Gas sensors installed inside the aircraft can detect and quantify the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2 ), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S). Successful gas flights are dependent on suitable weather conditions. Such conditions are often not very favourable at Tongariro. The Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) sensors can be operated from a vehicle driving along a road beneath the plume, but we do not obtain such a complete data set as flying. Yesterday’s Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) measurements were vehicle based. Examination of the ash confirms there are small amounts of fresh volcanic glass in the eruption deposit, being consistent with the inferred presence of molten material at shallow depth below Te Maari. This is consistent with other observations from the August eruption and observations since then like the gas flux. We do not see evidence for substantial recharge of the system beneath the Upper Te Maari crater. GNS Science uses a range of tools to monitor volcanoes. Seismometers record earthquakes, GPS stations record ground swelling. Acoustics sensors record air-waves such as those produced by an eruption. A new acoustic sensor was added at on Tongariro on Friday.

The Volcanic Alert Level ranges from 0 to 5 and defines the current status at a volcano. Level 1 indicates volcanic unrest, with departures from background levels.  Aviation Colour Codes are based on four colours and are intended for quick reference only in the international civil aviation community. Code Yellow indicates that volcanic activity has decreasedsignificantly but continues to be closely monitored.

24 November 2012

The Conservation Minister is assuring tourists that Mt Tongariro National Park is still open for business despite the mountain erupting for the second time this year.  The Te Maari crater sprang to life for about five minutes on Wednesday, and experts warn it could erupt again at any time.  But MP Kate Wilkinson says that apart from a three day exclusion zone, it is business as usual.  “Only some of the tracks are closed, and if there’s no increase in volcanic activity by say mid next week, they’re confident they’ll reopen that part of the alpine crossing,” she says.  The volcano is still spewing out gas, but scientists say it is not a danger.  Meantime, there has not been any significant volcanic activity at Mt Ruapehu overnight, although there are still concerns an eruption could happen without warning over the next few days.  RadioLIVE

22 November 2012

VOLCANIC ALERT BULLETIN: RUA – 2012/02

RUAPEHU VOLCANO

Volcanic Alert Level: 1 (unchanged)

Aviation Colour Code: Yellow (unchanged)

12 pm Thursday 22 November 2012

Likelihood of eruptions at Ruapehu remains. Yesterday GNS Science volcanologists visited the summit crater lake to sample the water and gas. Some provisional results should be available within a few days.  GNS volcanologist Brad Scott said, “The lake remains similar to our last visit on November 10. The lake is a uniform blue colour with very little convection and the temperature was only 19.5 °C. Everything looks quiet at the surface”.  Recent measurements at Ruapehu indicate that the likelihood of eruptions has increased and the observations yesterday don’t change this. The Aviation Colour Code remains at Yellow and the Volcanic Alert Level remains at 1.  We are monitoring Ruapehu closely, but it often does not give any immediate warning that it is going to erupt.  Since late-October small earthquakes have been occurring about 5 km beneath the summit  area of Ruapehu, but these may not be directly related to the high temperatures beneath Crater Lake as the earthquakes are much deeper.

Background

A build-up of pressure beneath Crater Lake is thought to have caused the 2007 eruption and a smaller eruption in 2006. We think that the temperature a few hundred metres beneath Crater Lake is about 800 °C, but the lake itself is only about 19-20 °C. This suggests the vent is partly blocked which may be leading to a pressure build-up beneath Crater Lake. A sudden release of the pressure may lead to an eruption.  Aviation Colour Codes are based on four colours and are intended for quick reference only in the international civil aviation community. Code Yellow indicates that a volcano is experiencing signs of elevated unrest above known background levels.

The Volcanic Alert Level ranges from 0 to 5 and defines the current status at a volcano.

Level 1 indicates a departure from typical background surface activity.

22 November 2012

The Department of Conservation says the decision to re-open the Tongariro Crossing on Labour Weekend in October was the right one.

The crossing was closed on Wednesday following the eruption from Te Maari Crater on Mt Tongariro about 1.30pm which pushed a plume of ash and gas about 2km into the air.

In August the crater erupted for the first time in more than a century, ejecting rocks that fell up to 1km away and forcing the closure of the popular Tongariro Crossing track for trampers.

It was re-opened at Labour Weekend and there were a number of trampers on the mountain, including up to 90 school students, who had to hurry off the mountain when it erupted on Wednesday.

But DOC Ruapehu area manager Jonathan Maxwell said he didn't regret the crossing being reopened.

"We'd had a fairly stable time after the initial eruption," he told Radio New Zealand.

"We have a rahui (restriction) in place a kilometre around that Te Maari crater. That proved to be a good call and the right distance so no one was anywhere near it."

Mr Maxwell said the crossing would be closed for at least three days, after which a new assessment would be made.

He said anyone wanting to view the mountain on Thursday would be best to do so from State Highway 46, which was safe and provided a good view.

Mr Maxwell said the crossing was important for businesses in the area, but that would play a small part in the decision on when to re-open it.

"That is a factor but it's not the paramount factor. The paramount factor is the safety and obviously we do not compromise that."

22 November 2012 - 630am - GNS Science

It has been a quiet night at Tongariro. GNS Science did not record any sign of eruption or any increase of volcanic activity. There is no indication at this stage that activity is to resume any time soon.

GNS Science will reassess the Aviation Colour Code and the Volcanic Alert Level this morning and a bulletin will be issued should any of these change.

In the mean time, the Aviation Colour Code remains at Orange and the Volcanic Alert Level at 2 until further notice.


21 November 2012

GNS Science: VOLCANIC ALERT BULLETIN: TONG – 2012/28

TONGARIRO VOLCANO Volcanic Alert Level: 2 (unchanged)

Aviation Colour Code: Orange (decreased from Red)

5:30 pm Wednesday 21st November 2012

Update of Eruption at Tongariro: Activity Decreased

This afternoon’s small eruption at Upper Te Maari Crater appears to be over for now, GNS Science said today.  GNS Science has now decreased the Aviation Colour Code from Red to Orange signalling that ash is no longer being erupted. However, minor eruptive activity continues and the Volcanic Alert Level remains at 2.  The eruption occurred from the Upper Te Maari crater, in the same area that erupted on August 6th this year. Today’s eruption happened at 1:25 pm and lasted for less than 5 minutes although local earthquake activity continued for about 15 minutes. The eruption appears to have ceased for now.  GNS Science staff Nico Fournier, Agnes Mazot and Craig Miller witnessed the eruption from a few kilometres away. “We didn’t hear anything but could suddenly see an ominous dark grey cloud of ash drifting towards us” said Dr Fournier. The eruption was also seen by trampers walking on the Tongariro Crossing. There are no reports of injury.  Ash erupted during the first few minutes reached 3 km to 4 km height and was clearly seen from Taupo. A light dusting of ash fell across part of State Highway 46 and northeast towards Turangi but no more ash has been reported this afternoon as the gas and steam cloud drifts towards the south east. Ash is being collected this afternoon and will be analysed at Massey University to assess potential human and animal health effects. Results are expected in the next few days.  Today’s eruption did not produce any directed rock blasts or debris flows like those made by the August eruption.

Background

This afternoon’s eruption occurred without any measured precursory changes and this reinforces the unpredictable nature of volcanoes. We cannot say what will happen next at Tongariro but the scenario considered most likely, based on the August 2012 eruption and the description of late 1890’s eruptions, is that we could expect another eruption of similar size at any time during the next few weeks. Eruptions are not expected to escalate in size.  Aviation Colour Codes are based on four colours and are intended for quick reference only in the international civil aviation community. Code Orange indicates that a volcanic eruption is underway but with little or no ash being produced. The Volcanic Alert Level ranges from 0 to 5 and defines the current status at a volcano. Level 2 indicates that a minor eruption has occurred.

Image of the eruption captured at 1:30 pm by the GeoNet webcam

http://www.geonet.org.nz/volcano/info/tongariro/camera/tongarirotemaaricrater

Video of the Eruption Footage

21 November 2012

Police say they are working alongside the Department of Conservation following an ash and gas eruption at the Te Maari crater on Mt Tongariro this afternoon. Inspector Steve Bullock, area commander for Taupo police, says while there are no road closures currently in place, he would "discourage" sightseers from travelling to the area.

"We don't want unnecessary congestion to contend with, and want to ensure the road network remains free-flowing just in case there is any further volcanic activity."

There have been no reports of injury and there are no search and rescue requirements at this stage.

The mountain silently blasted ash and gas 2km into the sky from Te Maari crater, on the western side of the mountain, about 1.25pm today, authorities said.

Police and Department of Conservation (DoC) staff have closed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing at Ketetahi and Mangatepopo roads, where the track starts and finishes.

DoC community relations manager Kim Alexander-Turia said about 50 people were thought to be on the crossing at the time of the eruption.

All were thought to be safe and were making their way off the track in their own time.

"The difference between this eruption and the last eruption is there's no volcanic rocks coming out, so we're just letting people quickly and safely come off in their own time, calmly.

"We're just trying to get them off the mountain as soon as possible."

Ms Alexander-Turia said a flyover later today would confirm whether everyone had made it off the mountain safely.

The eruption prompted an aviation alert increase from yellow to red.

Sara Page from GeoNet said the alert was upgraded because the eruption was underway with "significant ash in the atmosphere".

Air New Zealand said there may be delays or cancellations on domestic services to airports east of the mountain.

But the airline said it would adjust flight routes and altitudes if required ensuring aircraft remain clear of any ash.

GNS Science duty volcanologist Nico Fournier told APNZ there was one eruption, "essentially one explosion, and it was not sustained".

Dr Fournier said the eruption was not very loud and was smaller than an earlier eruption in August.

Last week GNS Science increased the likelihood of neighbouring volcano Mt Ruapehu erupting, following increased activity on the mountain.

Dr Fournier said there was "quite a bit of gas" but it was quietening down.

The next step was to work with DoC and authorities to make sure people in the area were safe.

Adrift NZ, which runs tours of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, had about 50 people on the mountain today.

Operator Stewart Barclay, who chairs a group of 30 users of Mt Tongariro, was heading to Mt Tongariro to help his guides and their groups off the mountain.

"I'm just going to make sure everyone is safe ... from my guide's perspective and from what I've heard, it seems minor."

Mr Barclay understood the eruption had launched no projectiles into the air.

"There was a minor amount of panic and everyone is safe now, there were no injuries."

Staff and students from Tamatea Intermediate in Hawkes Bay are safe and well after being on the Tongariro Track at the base of the volcano during a volcanic eruption this afternoon.

About 100 staff and students were about two hours into the track when the eruption occurred.

A school spokesman said the staff and students were okay and were coming down the mountain.

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management issued a national advisory just under an hour after the eruption.

It said "minor volcanic activity" at Tongariro's Te Maari craters could be hazardous in the immediate vicinity.

Light volcanic ashfall was anticipated downwind of Tongariro and could fall in Waikato, Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and Bay of Plenty.

People living in or near the affected areas were advised to stay indoors and close windows and doors if ash fell. People who were outdoors should seek shelter.

Civil Defence said ash could be a health hazard, especially for people suffering breathing difficulties.

People affected by ashfall should wear a dust mask cover their nose and mouth and protect their eyes.

A woman who lives near the mountain said sulphur-smelling ash had been raining down on her home.

Robyn Bennett, who lives 6km from the mountain, said she could see the plume of ash rising into the sky.

"It's sitting under some cloud and that's why it's pushing down onto us," she said.

"It smells worse than rotten eggs."

Ms Bennett didn't think she and her husband would need to leave their home, "not unless she starts spewing out a whole lot of red rocks", but they were waiting to hear from Civil Defence or DoC.

James Perry, who works at the Lake Taupo Hole in One attraction on the resort town's lakefront, had a clear view of the mountains of the central plateau and saw the ash as soon as the eruption occurred.

"It basically went straight up and did the mushroom cloud and then the wind's just spread it from there," he said.

Hole in One owner Tiffany Battell said the smell of sulphur was obvious yesterday and she had wondered then whether it was a precursor to another eruption.

Rhys Harnett of Auckland had stopped on the lakefront to eat his lunch at about 1.30pm when he saw black smoke rising silently from the crater of Mt Tongariro, which he said plumed out above the clouds. He took a photo on his cellphone and rang his home in Auckland to relate what he had seen.

"I had a feeling it was not an eruption but letting off steam."

WeatherWatch head weather analyst Philip Duncan said with only light winds in the region, much of the ash was expected to fall locally.

Lighter ash could travel greater distances and the plume may drift anywhere anywhere from Taupo to Hawkes Bay.

Ash was expected to fall on the Desert Road but was likely to be pushed away from the main air route, to the west of the mountain.

Tongariro, in the centre of the North Island, erupted in August for the first time in 115 years, sending ash as far east as Napier.

According to GeoNet, Tongariro is a complex of multiple volcanic cones constructed over a period of 275,000 years.

The mountain's active vents include Te Maari, Emerald, North Crater and Red Crater.


16 October 2012

Media release - 15th October 2012

Tongariro Alpine Crossing Opening for Labour Weekend

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing track will re-open this Friday in time for Labour weekend visitors. This opening follows recent closures relating to Rähui and safety hazard zone restrictions that have since been reduced following the Te Maari volcanic eruption on the 6th of August. The track has been repaired, but in places may be a little soft and rocky.  Visitors still need to consider winter conditions with snow cover and avalanche conditions remaining on many high parts of the track and are advised to contact, i-Sites, Mountain Safety Council website  and Whakapapa Visitor Centre for updates on weather, avalanche and track conditions.

A public ceremony opening the complete track from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi track entrances will take place this Friday at the Mangatepopo car park at 10am. The ceremony will be conducted by kaumätua from local hapü Ngati Hikairo ki Tongariro. This ceremony will lift the Rähui over the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track, but a Rähui will still remain in place around a 1km hazard zone of the Te Maari crater. The opening of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is exciting news for tourism operators with the start of the Great Walk season at Labour weekend.

Signs showing the location of the remaining Rähui will be in place on the track and safety flyers regarding the volcanic hazard will be available at the Mangatepopo and Ketetahi road ends.

In the early hours of Sunday morning a lake which had formed behind a debris dam created by the eruption of Te Maari, burst through creating a mud flow off the side of Tongariro. Small amounts of mud, rocks and vegetation flowed onto State Highway 46.   Residents along the highway and around Lake Rotoaira will be relieved that the dam is no longer a threat to them.  There was significant damage to 200 metres of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track on the section which passes through the bush near the Ketetahi carpark end.  Mud was also spread over a further 1.3 kilometres of the track in this area and visitors can expect it to be muddy and uneven under foot here. This event has mostly eliminated any risk to visitors using the track from lahars and mudflows and has relieved previously necessary post-eruption hazard risk management.

Members of the public are invited to the Opening Ceremony at 10 am on Friday, 19th October, at the Mangatepopo Carpark.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing reopens for long weekend - By Laurilee McMichael of the Turangi Chronicle

Trampers will be able to take on the Tongariro Crossing this weekend.

A lahar on Mt Tongariro early on Sunday morning has helped to make the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track safe to reopen.

The track will reopen this Friday in time for Labour Weekend. It was closed after Mt Tongariro's Te Maari Crater erupted on August 6, and partially reopened from Mangatepopo to Red Crater on August 31.

The eruption caused a landslide which flowed 2km down the mountain and blocked three streams. One of them formed a dam, posing a threat to people further down the mountain, including on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Conservation Department scientist Harry Keys said that while safety systems, including a lake level sensor on the dam, had been put in place, he was pleased that nature had taken its course and made the dam safe before the section of the track from Red Crater to Ketetahi reopened this weekend.

"It's a load off that it failed when it did."

He said the dam failure was not unexpected and scientists had expected the wall would give way at about the level it did.

The dam had filled to an estimated 60,000 cubic metres of water before the dam wall failed after heavy rain at 12.30am on Sunday.

The resulting lahar of mud and rocks was between three and five metres high and flowed 12 kilometres down the valley, Dr Keys said.

It caused significant damage to 200m of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on the section of track which passes through the bush near the Ketetahi carpark end.

Mud was also spread over a further 1.3km of track and DOC is warning visitors to expect conditions to be muddy and uneven underfoot on that section. The lahar flowed onto State Highway 46 but did not reach Lake Rotoaira.

Dr Keys said DOC would continue to monitor the dam but the dam's outlet now appeared "really stable" and the lake level had dropped to about 10,000cu metres of water. The lahar had all but eliminated any risk to visitors using the track from lahars and mudflows.

DOC is warning people that although the Tongariro Alpine Crossing has been repaired, in some places it may be a little soft and rocky. Visitors would still need to consider winter conditions, with snow cover and avalanche conditions remaining on many high parts of the track.

Local transport operators, i-Sites, the Mountain Safety Council website and the Whakapapa Visitor Centre have regular updates on weather, avalanche and track conditions.

A public ceremony to open the final complete track section from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi track entrances will take place this Friday with kaumatua from local hapu Ngati Hikairo ki Tongariro.

The ceremony will lift the rahui (closure) over the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track, but a rahui will remain in place around a 1km hazard zone of the Te Maari crater. Signs showing the location of the remaining rahui will be in place on the track, and safety flyers regarding the volcanic hazard will be available at the Mangatepopo and Ketetahi road ends.

9 October 2012

Department of Conservation Media Release - Tongariro Alpine Crossing Repair Underway

Visitors and local tour operators will be pleased to hear that the temporary repair of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track will be started this week.  A 2.5 km long section of the track was badly damaged and in places made hazardous during the eruption of Te Maari on 6 August. The aim is to repair the track on either side of the Ketetahi Hut to back- country adventure standard.  This will provide trekkers with a defined poled route but it will be rough and muddy in places without a gravel surface over much of it. The Ketetahi Hut will remain closed due to substantial damage from the eruption. However a day shelter and toilets will be available at the site of the damaged hut.  Due to substantial damage to the water supply, no drinking water will be available at the Ketetahi Shelter.  Trekkers will need to carry enough drinking water for the day.

Progress to get this work completed will be very weather dependent and snow still covers part of the damaged area but every effort will be made to have the Tongariro Alpine Crossing walkable by Labour Weekend.  Prior to re-opening of the track to the public, Ngāti Tuwharetoa through local hapu Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, will lift the Rāhui off this section with an appropriate blessing ceremony.  New signage will also be installed updating track information.

GNS (Geological and Nuclear Sciences) have been carrying out extensive monitoring of the eruption site, including gas sampling, to ensure a robust risk assessment is undertaken to aid decision making.  Gas levels continue to reduce and earthquake activity has been at a very low level since the August eruption.

Ngāti Hikairo will continue to provide a cultural and safety information presence at the Mangatepopo carpark, the gateway to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Image - DOC Ruapehu Area Manager, Jonathan Maxwell inspecting track damage

4 October 2012

Latest information and images from recent research and monitoring at Mt Tongariro on 30 September 2012 - http://info.geonet.org.nz/display/volc/2012/10/02/Tongariro+visit+and+observations

19 September 2012

DOC Media Release - Emerald Lakes – Oturere Junction tracks to re-open

The Department of Conservation will re-open another two sections of track on Tongariro’s Alpine Crossing and the Tongariro Northern Circuit.

The tracks to Emerald Lakes and Oturere Valley will re-open to the public this weekend.

The department has continued to work closely with Ngāti Tūwharetoa through local hapu Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, and community and business leaders to re-open tracks as the eruption risk management area has been revised.

The area has now been reduced to a distance of 2.5 km around Upper Te Maari crater. This allows access to Emerald Lakes and the junction of the track in Oturere Valley, and means that people can traverse the volcano via the Tongariro Northern Circuit around Mt Ngauruhoe.

A Rāhui (protective restriction) placed on entering the high risk area by Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, who hold Manawhenua (governing rights) over the lands has also been revised in line with the department’s revision. The Rāhui upholds a traditional Maori custom (Tikanga Maori) to ensure the safety and protection of all people entering the region. The Rāhui now covers the area of tracks that are within 2.5km of the eruption site and remain closed by DOC

The pou will be moved to the Emerald Lakes-Oturere Junction with information about the history and cultural significance of the maunga and whenua to the tangata whenua, and also information about the eruption.

DOC’s Taupō-nui-a-Tia Area Manager Dave Lumley says the safety of staff and the public is paramount. When the high risk area is reduced further, and the tracks have been made safe, the rest of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing would be opened up.

The sections of track re-opening this weekend are from Red Crater to Emerald Lakes and the junction, and the track from Oturere Hut to the junction.

The section of track from the junction to Ketetahi Road remains closed at this stage.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing as a whole will take longer to re-open as the damage to facilities and tracks needs to be made safe.

Once the high risk area has been further reduced and the area is safe to re-enter DOC staff will begin to stabilise the damage to the track that occurred within the 2km hazard zone around the vents.

“We are confident that the Tongariro Alpine Crossing will be open before the summer tramping season starts at the end of next month,” Dave says.

“We are working with the whole community – iwi, hapu, business leaders, tourism operators and agencies – to provide safe public access to one of New Zealand’s most special places,” Dave says.

All other facilities, activities and alternative walking tracks are fully operational within the Tongariro National Park.

11 September 2012

We have been monitoring the Geonet information on their web site and it appears the volcanic activity has gone down with very little in the way of earth tremors since their last report on 28th August. The three vents are quietly steaming, but even that has reduced as well. The sulphur smells which were quite noticeable for a time seem to have gone away.

So the outlook is looking very positive for the summer trekking season.

New snow has fallen on the mountain this week which will provide a nice vista and perhaps some alpine walking when the weather clears tomorrow.

31 August 2012

Department of Conservation Media release

Texan couple first to walk Red Crater Tongariro Alpine Crossing track today

 A young couple on holiday from Texas, USA, were given the honour of being the first trekkers to walk the newly opened Red Crater section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing today.

 Chase Griffin and Erin Dimiceli from Houston said they were very excited to witness a traditional Maori blessing ceremony, Te Whakapainga (the journey to make right), and then to be the first people to walk the re-opened track.

 They were not expecting to take such an active part in the proceedings this morning but as the manuhiri (visitors) to the maunga (mountain) and whenua (land) they were invited to cut the tape sealing off the track along with local Tongariro Expeditions guide Sarah Cate.

 This morning’s ceremony was attended by more than 50 people representing DOC, Ngāti Tūwharetoa through local hapu Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, local tourism operators and businesses.

Clear blue skies and snow covered peaks provided a stunning backdrop to the ceremony which included the blessing,  Te Whakapainga,   at the entrance to the track at the Mangatepopo car park followed by a Rahui ceremony at Red Crater.

 Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro spokesman Te Ngaehe Wanikau says today was just the start of an amazing journey with everyone working together to deliver an even better Tongariro Alpine Crossing visitor experience for the future.

 “This is an exciting time for us all, and the hapu are really looking forward to working with everyone on making sure that the long term new improved Tongariro Alpine Crossing has an authentic cultural dimension to it,” he said.

 DOC’s Ruapehu Area Manager Nic Peet says today was the first step in getting visitors back onto that area of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Northern Circuit tracks. The next step was to make safe the track and facilities,  and have the rest of the tracks opened in time for this summer’s trekking season.

 “The long term plan however, is to have improved tracks, facilities and a cultural dimension to the experience in place for the summer of 2013. We are all working together to achieve this and it is a major step forward for us all.”

 Nic says “It is great to see the whole community – iwi, hapu, business leaders, tourism operators and agencies – working together to provide safe public access to one of New Zealand’s most special places.”

 The sections of track re-opened today are from Mangatepopo Road to Red Crater and also the track from Waihohonu Hut to Oturere Hut.

 All other facilities, activities and alternative walking tracks are fully operational within the Tongariro National Park.

Additional Information:

Leading the blessing Te Whakapainga, and Rāhui (protective restriction) ceremonies  was Te Ngaehe Wanikau, kaumatua of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro and Ngāti Tūwharetoa kaumatua,  the Rev Sonny Garmonsway and Mr Matiu ‘Jubilee’ Pitiroi.


28 August 2012

Department of Conservation Media release

28th   August 2012

Red Crater Tongariro Alpine Crossing track to re-open this weekend

Two more sections of track on Tongariro’s Alpine Crossing and the Tongariro Northern Circuit are re-opening this weekend.

The Department of Conservation is working closely with Ngāti Tūwharetoa through local hapu Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, and community and business leaders to re-open the tracks to Red Crater and Oturere Hut to trampers on Saturday 1st September 2012.

A blessing ceremony,  Te Whakapainga (the journey to make right), will take place at Mangatepopo Road car park, the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on Friday morning in preparation for the re-opening  to the public the following day.

Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro spokesman Te Ngaehe Wanikau says the mountain has spoken. It is very important that we have listened to what the maunga has said, and before we re-open the maunga (mountain) and the whenua (land)  to the people, that we respect and honour it with a blessing.

Members of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro hapu will support the re-opening by welcoming trampers to the maunga and whenua at Mangatepopo car park. They will talk to visitors about the cultural significance of the maunga (mountain) and the land (whenua)  as well as sharing some of the stories of our  people says Te Ngaehe.

Although the alert level has been lowered and the hazard zone revised, there is still a 3km radius hazard zone focussed around Upper Te Maari crater, and therefore a 3km risk area in place.

DOC’s Ruapehu Area Manager Nic Peet says the safety of staff and the public is paramount. When the high risk area was reduced further the rest of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Northern Circuit would be opened up.

DOC has been busy preparing for the re-opening working closely with Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, operators and other agencies on new signage, barriers, interpretive material and other associated resources.

“Everything will be in place for this re-opening, including all the new signage and barriers.”

A pou will also to be installed at Red Crater with information about the history and cultural significance of the maunga and whenua to the tangata whenua, and also information about the eruption.

A Rāhui (protective restriction) has been placed on entering the 3km high risk area by Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, who hold Manawhenua (governing rights) over the lands. This upholds a traditional Maori custom (Tikanga Maori) to ensure the safety and protection of all people entering the region. The Rāhui covers the area of tracks that are within 3km of the eruption site and as a result have been closed by DOC.

The sections of track re-opening on Saturday are from Mangatepopo Road to Red Crater and also the track from Waihohunu Hut to Oturere Hut.

The section of track from Oturere Hut to Red Crater remains closed at this stage, along with the section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from Red Crater to Ketetahi Road.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing as a whole will take longer to re-open as the damage to facilities and tracks needs to be made safe. DOC staff will assess the track damage inside the 3 km hazard zone once this area is safe to re-enter.

“However, if the current inactivity continues and the high risk area is further reduced the Tongariro Alpine Crossing will be open before the summer tramping season starts,” Nic says.

Nic says “It is great to see the whole community – iwi, hapu, business leaders, tourism operators and agencies – working together to provide safe public access to one of New Zealand’s most special places.”

All other facilities, activities and alternative walking tracks are fully operational within the Tongariro National Park.

–Ends–

Contact: Duty Media Advisor Robyn Orchard on 0223124313


27 August 2012

VOLCANIC ALERT BULLETIN: Tong – 12/23

1230pm Monday, 27 August 2012

Tongariro Volcano

Volcanic Alert Level 1

Aviation Colour Code: Yellow

Revised Eruption Phenomena Map for Te Maari, Tongariro

It has been two weeks since the issue of a first phenomena map for the current volcano unrest period in the Te Maari area of Tongariro. As stated with that first release, the map will be revised as further scientific data, modelling and interpretation become available. The science advisory group for this eruption, convened by GNS Science, have agreed that the volcanic phenomena map should now be updated as the result of further discussion and scientific input. In addition to GNS scientists, Department of Conservation, Massey, Canterbury, Victoria, Otago and Waikato universities have all provided input.

The following updates have been made to the phenomena map. This replaces all previous map versions:

(1) The 3km summit hazard zone is now based around the August 6th eruption source. Eruptions from other existing vents, or the generation of new vents, are now considered unlikely without any further precursory activity (not as yet detected). The geological and historical record, past magma geochemistry and current monitoring data were all considered along with the existing vent locations and any other potential source-area(s).

(2) The map title has been updated to reflect the narrowing of the summit hazard zone, now focussed on the Te Maari area specifically.

(3) A cartographic change to make the map easier to read. All of summit hazard zone has been shaded red, with the flow hazard zone in yellow, only shown beyond the fringes of the red. Text on the map has been modified to explain some flow hazard exists in the summit hazard zone.

(4) The blue line representing the stream catchment currently containing a debris flow deposit has been thickened with explanation text added noting that there is a risk of remobilisation of debris flow deposits there. Other stream lines within the flow hazard zone have also been thickened somewhat and the legend now explains that these are all streams with some elevated flow hazard.

(5) The previous active volcanic vents on Tongariro have been colour coded as being active in the past 27,000 years (red open circle), or past 500 years (solid red circle) to help with highlighting eruptions in the most active recent vents.

Taupo Civil Defence says the map update reinforces the advice for motorists not to stop along SH46. Debris from the recent eruption is blocking streams, meaning a significant volume of water has built up at various places.

Taupo Civil Defence emergency manager Phil Parker said: "Signs erected by NZTA are in place reminding people not to stop anywhere on SH46. Additional warning signage is also in place near a culvert on the highway, as this would carry the majority of any debris flows should the main debris dam collapse. NZTA has contractors monitoring the area extremely closely."

Mr Parker said devices to monitor movement in the main debris dam have been installed and are being tested by Massey University.

“Further work is planned to improve our understanding of the debris dams and how far material might go if the largest one collapses. At this stage, the debris would not be expected to affect any buildings but could affect SH46 within about 15 minutes of a collapse. We will review our advice – and what we plan to do - once we have the results of further analysis.”

Contacts:

GNS Science;

Dr Gill Jolly, Head of Volcanology Department
Dr Graham Leonard, Volcanologist
Emergency management and Civil Defence;
Phil Parker, Taupo District Council
Stephen Ward, Waikato Regional Council


17 August 2012

Volcanic Alert Bulletin TON-2012/22 - Volcanic Alert reduced to Level 1; Aviation Colour Code remains Yellow

Ten days has elapsed since the eruption of Tongariro on the evening of August 6. Although very minor amounts of ash were emitted in the first few days after the eruption, there has been no significant activity since August 6. Seismic activity which had been above normal for some of the period preceding the eruption returned to normal low levels after the eruption. Volcanic gas flux measurements after the eruption were high, but poor weather has prevented any recent measurements. Minor eruptive activity, which is required for Volcanic Alert Level 2, is no longer occurring and the Volcanic Alert Level is consequently reduced from 2 to 1.The New Zealand Volcanic Alert Level system is based on the current level of activity at a volcano. It does not include any forecast of possible activity in the future. Level 1 at Tongariro indicates “Departure from typical background surface activity. Signs of volcano unrest”.The Aviation Colour Code, which applies only to aircraft near the volcano, remains at Yellow. This indicates that the “Volcano is experiencing signs of elevated unrest above known background levels” and is still considered to be appropriate for Tongariro.Over the next seven days the scenario considered most likely is that there will be no further eruptions. The next most likely scenario is that any eruptions will be of similar size to the eruption on August 6. The scenario considered least likely is that larger eruptions will occur. Any further eruptions could occur with little or no warning.We continue to monitor the volcano and further bulletins will be issued when activity or observations warrant.

Volcanic Alert Level is at level 1, reduced from level 2
Aviation Colour Code remains Yellow
Steven Sherburn
Duty Volcanologist

15 August 2012

Minister visits Mt Tongariro region community

by Hon Kate Wilkinson, Conservation

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson and Taupō MP Louise Upston have met with iwi, community and tourism industry leaders at Tongariro National Park today to discuss last week’s volcanic eruption.

Ms Wilkinson said it was important to fully understand the science behind the eruption and appreciate the cultural and economic significance of the event.

“This will help us support local iwi, community and business leaders in the future,” Ms Wilkinson says.

While local ski fields remain open to the public, Ms Wilkinson says she supports the Department of Conservation’s phased recovery and re-opening of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

“Tongariro National Park is an important destination for over 1 million visitors a year. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of our most popular Great Walks, so this is of significant value to the local economy.

“I am pleased to see that DOC is working hard to prioritise re-opening the tracks and getting them ready for the summer season. They are continuing to work closely with GNS Science to ensure volcanic activity has eased first, so the phasing and re-opening is done without compromising staff or public safety.”

Taupō MP Louise Upston said today’s meetings were invaluable for both her and the Minister.

“It is good to see that the department have kept local iwi, community and business leaders informed and updated of the phased recovery and re-opening plans.

13 August 2012

GNS Science
Wairakei Research Centre
T +64-7-374 8211
F +64-7-374 8199
www.gns.cri.nz

VOLCANO ALERT BULLETIN: TONG – 2012/18
1450 hr Monday, 13th August 2012 (date corrected)
Tongariro Volcano
Volcanic Alert Level 2
Aviation Colour Code: Yellow

Tongariro Eruption Update

Volcanic activity remains low. There has been no significant seismic activity at Tongariro for several days. Heavy rain on Sunday produced minor lahars which affected State Highway 46. No further reports have been received since Sunday. Of the three eruption scenarios deemed possible over the next seven days, the scenario considered most likely is that there will be no further eruptions, the next likely is that any eruptive activity will be of similar magnitude to that on August 6, and the least likely that larger eruptions will occur.

Seismic activity at Tongariro has remained low since the August 6 eruption. No ground deformation originating in the Tongariro area has been observed. Recent poor weather has prevented visual observations. Scientists have considered three eruption scenarios deemed possible over the next seven days and have evaluated these based on monitoring data, historic activity at Tongariro, and experience of New Zealand and overseas eruptions. Over the next seven days the scenario considered most likely is that there will be no further
eruptions. The next most likely scenario is that any eruptions will be of similar size to the eruption on August 6. The scenario considered least likely is that larger eruptions will occur. This assessment is valid for only the next seven days and a change in monitoring parameters may change the assessment.

On Sunday heavy rain remobilised some ash erupted on August 6 and a minor lahar crossed State Highway 46 at the northern foot of Tongariro. No further reports of lahar flows have been received since Sunday. Some concerns remain over the debris flow formed by the August 6 eruption that is blocking two small streams draining the northern slopes of Tongariro and the potential this has to produce larger lahars. A process is in place to start to assess his threat.

Analyses of volcanic gases from airborne measurements last Thursday have been completed and showed 3900 tonnes per day of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and 364 tonnes per day of Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) gas, in addition to the 2100 tonnes per day of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) reported previously. These gases confirm the presence of magma beneath the volcano, but do not give any indication about its depth or volume. The smell of Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) gas was reported from several localities
south of Tongariro over the weekend. High Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) gas levels have been observed in the volcanic plume, and may potentially cause some discomfort for those with breathing difficulties. The areas affected will always be downwind of the volcano, and may change daily.

Several days of microscopic and geochemical analysis of the widespread ash (by Massey, Waikato, Victoria and Otago universities, and GNS Science) shows that there is very little or no new magma in the ejecta of the August 6 eruption. This suggests that the eruption was predominantly gas driven, but the involvement of magma in the future cannot be ruled out.

On Friday scientists collected gas and water samples from Ketetahi hot springs and collected some of the ballistic ejecta from the Ketetahi Hut area to help determine the nature of the erupted products. Poor weather has prevented any further fieldwork today. Once the weather improves additional gas sampling flights and surface gas sampling will be attempted. Data will also be collected from portable seismographs on Tongariro.

An ashfall prediction plot is attached to this bulletin should a future eruption occur.

Volcanic Alert Level remains at level 2
Aviation Colour Code remains at Yellow

Steven Sherburn
Duty Volcanologist
07 3748211
Media Contact: Brad Scott

12 August 2012

NZ Herald - Lahar Streams from Tongariro
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/matthew-theunissen/news/article.cfm?a_id=743&objectid=10826411#

By Matthew Theunissen and Yvonne Tahana

9:55 AM Sunday Aug 12, 2012

Heavy rain has caused a lahar - a stream of ash and mud - from Tongariro's northern slopes to close a section of Highway 46 near Lake Rotoaira, but a GNS volcanologist says this is completely in keeping with the after-effects of eruptions.

Michael Rosenberg said a member of the public had reported about 13cm of mud crossing the road around 8.30am today.

"I guess the message is it's not a volcanic triggered lahar.

"It's the kind of thing we would expect when there's a lot of ash and debris. It's a very common thing that happens on a volcano.

"This is something we expect with high rain.

"People might have seen pictures of the awesome mudflows in Indonesia on their volcanoes after their heavy tropical rain washes away the ash. This is not something unusual."

Mr Rosenburg said the lahar was nothing like the dangerous bodies of water and sludge which have thundered off Mt Ruapehu in the past. In 1953 a fatal lahar swept away the Tangiwai Rail Bridge killing 151 people travelling on the Wellington to Auckland service. In 2007 a lahar caused the crater lake to burst.

A team of Massey University researchers are heading to the lahar.

Earthquake and other volcanic activity had been quiet overnight, Mr Rosenberg said.

Department of Conservation (DOC) spokesman Bhrent Guy said the lahar caused a "truck-load" of ash, debris and water to run down SH46.

"It's just a small blocked culvert on the side of the road, nothing substantial."

DOC workers are sweeping the road clear.

Rotoaira local Dave Bennett said it was not unusual for that part of the road to flood in heavy rain.

"I've been up there and had a look. It's a normal place where the road washes out and there's a little but of ash in it, that's about all."


11 August 2012

http://www.geonet.org.nz/volcano/alert-bulletins/archives/2012/aug-11-2012-6-00-pm-tongariro-volcano.html

Volcanic Alert Bulletin TON-2012/15 - New Northern Tongariro Volcanic Phenomena map; Volcanic Alert is at Level 2; Aviation Colour Code is Yellow

Click here to download a full size version of the map

A new map of volcanic phenomena for Northern Tongariro has been released. This has been produced by GNS Science using modelling of volcanic phenomena at Massey University and with expert input from both GNS Science and Massey University. It shows the currently most hazardous areas around the mountain.

During the past two weeks, GNS Science has been working with Massey University, Department of Conservation and the Taupo and Waikato Civil Defence and Emergency Management Offices to develop an updated map of volcanic phenomena that might be experienced during an eruption of Tongariro Volcano as part of the current unrest episode. The aim is to inform the public about which areas are more hazardous and should be avoided during an eruption. A similar map was produced in late 2007 covering the summit of Mount Ruapehu during the unrest period following an eruption there.

The map was developed using knowledge of the geological history of Tongariro, experience from other similar volcanoes internationally, volcanological expert opinion as well as mathematical modelling of possible phenomena undertaken at Massey University. For the modelling, scientists used a range of scenarios including different vent locations and different volumes of ejecta.

The map builds on a long term hazard map for awareness during times without obvious volcanic unrest that was developed for the whole of Tongariro in 2007. The new map includes a new zone to the north of Te Māri where the explosion on August 6 occurred.

This new zone shows areas that are at risk from volcanic flows (red and yellow on the map). These include mudflows, pyroclastic (hot ash) flows and lava flows. Mudflows are more likely during heavy rain and will be channelled down river valleys. Pyroclastic flows only occur during explosive eruptions and may not be confined to valleys. Both pyroclastic and mudflows can travel fast (up to around 100 km/h for mudflows or much faster for pyroclastic flows). Lava flows tend to be slow moving.

The most hazardous zone is within approximately 3 km of the area of potential new vents on the northern flanks of Tongariro – the summit hazard zone (red and orange on the map). Helicopter observations of the deposits by scientists this week have shown multiple impacts in this zone from flying rocks during the 6th August eruption, especially close to the vents.

The area within both the flow and summit hazard zones is coloured red.

Currently the activity of the volcano is quiet, and there are no signs of an imminent eruption. We would likely expect to see an increase in unrest indicators prior to eruptions larger than the explosion on 6th August.

Due to the potential hazards and the fact that they could affect state highway 46, authorities are recommending that people do not stop their vehicles while travelling along State Highway 46 in the potential hazards area. The New Zealand Transport Agency has erected signage to this effect along the road.

The map may be updated as more information about the status of the volcano becomes available.

GNS Science, Civil Defence and other agencies are working together closely on planning to ensure effective and timely reaction to various future eruption scenarios.

Hazard maps are common tools used by volcano monitoring agencies and emergency management officials around the world to inform the public about the threats from volcanic phenomena.

Volcanic Alert Level remains at level 2
Aviation Colour Code remains at Yellow

For further information, contact:

Dr. Gill Jolly
Head of Volcanology, GNS Science

Dr. Graham Leonard
Volcanologist, GNS Science


10 August 2012

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing remains closed while the scientists continue to monitor and evaluate their data.

The track from Waihohunu Hut to Red Crater also remains closed.

Ketetahi hut has been badly damaged by rocks ejected from the Te Maari crater eruption.

The track above Ketetahi Hut as far as Blue Lake has also been damaged in places from erupted rocks. This area is within 1 ½ kilometres of the crater.

Adjacent tracks such as the Waihohunu from SH 1, Tama Lakes, Whakapapa Village and Taranaki Falls are open as are all other tracks in the Tongariro National Park.

The Ski areas of Mt Ruapehu, Whakapapa and Turoa are unaffected by the volcanic activity and are open with lots of new snow this week.

Those who intended to undertake a winter Tongariro Alpine Crossing walk could consider a Ruapehu Crater walk.  Guides with all the alpine equipment are available.

The closest viewing of the Te Maari Crater is from SH 46 which takes you within 4 kilometres from the activity where steam continues to pour from the new vents.


9 August 2012

Image captured by Satellite by NASA Earth Observatory
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=78791&src=eoa-iotd

8 August 2012


Image Copyright GeoNet NZ, taken 8 Aug 2012 - Upper Te Maari crater and eruption fissure.
View more images here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/geonet_nz/

Report from GeoNet NZ 8 August 2012: http://www.geonet.org.nz/volcano/alert-bulletins/archives/2012/aug-8-2012-3-00-pm-tongariro-volcano.html

7 August 2012

A small eruption from the Te Maari Craters on Mount Tongariro last night produced mostly steam and ash. Some boulders also fell within a kilometre from the crater. The ash has mostly been taken by prevailing winds to the East over the Rangipo Desert and Kaimanawa Forest.

Te Maari Craters are two kilometres to the east of Ketetahi Hut and can affect part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track from Emerald lakes to below Ketetahi Hut.

As a precautionary safety measure the Tongariro Alpine Crossing Track, the track from Waihohunu Hut to Red Crater and two huts, Ketetahi and Oturere have been closed today. Scientists and Department of Conservation will re-assess the situation as to when these can be re-opened.

GNS Science reports that the eruption was small in scale and generated by hydrothermal (steam) activity rather than a molten lava eruption.

While recent monitoring had indicated a decreasing amount of measured activity the eruption had come as a surprise.

No-one was in the area at the time of the eruption at 11:50pm and no nearby residents at the base of Tongariro have been evacuated.

At Mount Ruapehu 20 km away, the three ski areas; Tukino, Turoa and Whakapapa reported business as usual with no ash coming their way.

The eruption has caused some excitement as it is the first time Tongariro has produced an eruption since 1896 and 1897. Currently there is low cloud obscuring visibility.  When this clears there will be opportunities to view the activity from SH 46 and SH 47 on the north side of Lake Rotoaira. A climb up Mount Tihia could be rewarding also.

Click for Latest Report from TVNZ

DOC Media Release 7 August 2012 - Volcanic Eruption Response

These images captured by Terry Blumdhardt LandSAR Turangi Volunteer: copyright LandSAR Turangi


 



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