Acid gas, eruptions still a risk at White Island

  • 13/08/2012

By Sanele Chadwick

Volcanic activity on White Island has eased off, but visiting the island is the riskiest it has been in almost a decade.

That's what the experts say after they assessed the latest data from the volcanic hot spot.

There's less ash around White Island, but scientists say there could now be an eruption at any moment, and with no warning.

"Once a volcano starts an eruptive episode, there's always a high level of risk when visiting the volcano," says Steven Sherburn, GNS volcanologist.

One of those risks is the threat of acid gas, thrown out in last week's eruption.

"If you're underneath the volcanic plume and you're getting some acid ran on you, you'll get some smarting of the eyes, stinging of the skin because the volcanic gas plume is acidic in nature," says Mr Sherburn.

But at least there's less ash in the air, and the aviation alert is down.

"The eruptive activity has declined at White Island. It was always low-level, but we don't seem to have any evidence at the moment of volcanic ash."

Mt Tongariro has gone quiet too, and scientists think it's most likely to stay that way over the next seven days.

"There is a lesser chance that there may be another eruption similar to the one on August 6, and there is a low chance of a larger eruption," says Mr Sherburn.

If there is an eruption, they think it's most likely to be similar to last week's. They've inspected the rocks thrown out by the steam last week, but found no signs of new lava activity.

"Of those rocks we were unable to see any that represented new lava that had been thrown out," says Mr Sherburn. "They were all country rock… which existed before the explosion started."

The weather has prevented scientists getting more data. Once it improves they hope to get a clearer picture of what's happening.

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source: newshub archive