GNS Science volcanologists raised volcanic alert to Level 2 (minor eruptive activity) and the Aviation Color Code to Orange level (volcanic eruption is under way with no or minor ash emission) after discovering a spiny lava dome at White Island volcano in an existing small crater formed as a result of the recent eruptions in August.
"The dome is probably 20 – 30 metres across and has spines sticking up. In more than 30 years visiting White Island I’ve never seen anything like it." GNS Science volcanologist Brad Scott.
Lava domes are usually formed by magma that has lost most of its gases so that it is very sticky. This causes the magma to pile up over the volcanic event and form a dome. Magma last reached the surface at White Island in 2000 when erupted explosively as molten rocks called volcanic bombs (rather than forming a dome).
GNS Science head volcanologist Gill Jolly explains that Volcanic Alert Level and Aviation Color Code have been raised to reflect the new style of eruptive activity.
Experts are concerned if lava dome should grow, because it can be accompanied by explosive eruptions and could impact people on the island.
GNS Science continues to closely monitor White Island through the GeoNet project.
In August 2012, Mount Tongariro and White Island had small eruptions, and are still displaying signs of increased activity - currently at Volcanic Alert Level 1.
Featured image: White Island, showing the white clouds of highly acidic gases (Credit: GNS/GeoNet)