Tongariro erupts with a cough

by Helen Cocker

Following the Ph.D. student field trip in the South Island of New Zealand, I headed to the North Island for some family time and a friend’s wedding.  After hearing on Friday that Mt. Ruapehu, a volcano in the centre of the North Island, has an increased likelihood of eruption I was quietly hoping that there would be an eruption before I returned to Canberra a few days later.

So after several days of increased news focussed on Ruapehu we got our eruption. Except that it wasn’t Ruapehu that blew.  It was one if its neighbours, Tongariro, and it was more of a cough than a great eruption.  And sadly I was already back at my desk at RSES.

Here is a link to a video taken by hikers on the popular Tongariro Crossing track of the Tongariro eruption on 21 November 2012, whilst you can also see a time lapse sequence of camera shot from the observatory.

Tongariro and Ruapehu are at the southern end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, a magmatically active area from Ruapehu to White Island that formed from subduction of the Pacific Plate beneath the Australian Plate.  Tongariro is a volcanic complex comprising numerous cones and craters that has formed over 275,000 years.  The current eruption is from the Te Maari crater.  There was also an eruption from this crater on 6 August this year but previous eruptions from Te Maari were in the 1800s.

Perhaps there was an element of jealousy in all the attention Ruapehu was getting and Tongariro just wanted to reassert his presence and remind us of the Maori legend in which he had won Ruapehu from Taranaki in a battle of love.  And perhaps Ruapehu will still erupt soon in a display of affection for distant Taranaki.

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