Is White Island close to eruption?

The AM Show 27/06/2019

White Island's latest activity is concerning volcanologists, but they're not sure if we're seeing the beginning of an eruption just yet.

GNS Science volcanologist Brad Scott told The AM Show the volcano is definitely waking up.

"What White Island is doing is showing signs of volcanic unrest, that's sort of hinting to us that it's possibly more likely that something will happen but it's not definitive that it will erupt at this time."

GNS Science raised the Volcanic Alert Level at White Island to level two on Wednesday following moderate unrest. 

It said in a statement recent earthquake swarms have shown an increase in sulphur dioxide gas flux to historically high levels.

White Island has been constantly releasing volcanic gas at least since it was first spotted by James Cook in 1769. Sulphur mining was attempted on the island but abandoned in 1914 after a lahar killed all 10 workers.

Scott said people should keep an eye on what GNS, Civil Defence and tour operators are saying about unrest on the island, but they should be doing that already.

"It's an active volcano, there's always a possibility of eruption and that's there every time you visit."

But people on the mainland in the Bay of Plenty near the volcano should not be worried.

"We've not been able to find any deposits from White Island on the mainland or in the seabeds between the island and the coast so we're pretty confident that White Island's never going to affect the mainland in a significant way."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Katie Fitzgerald