The Terraces of Tarawera

The Haszard family at Te Wairoa. Charles Haszard was the local school teacher. Source: Alexander Turnbull Library

It was a quintessential English village, with simple houses along streets and fenced cottage gardens of precisely 100 m2 each. This is what the heart of England, the Cotswolds, looked like. Perhaps 85% of the population was local; the others were distant immigrants. The people were farmers and workers in the local flour mill. But although typical, this village would have an exceptional legacy. It was the only English village ever to be destroyed by a volcanic eruption.

The location gives a clue. For this was the England of the colonies, and the immigrants were people who had left their home in England – not always voluntary – and traveled halfway across the world to start a new life. This was about as far from England as it was possible to get. The fact that their new homeland was already occupied was not seen as a problem, in the colonial era. The local population could provide the labour for the new arrivals.

Some saw a wider responsibility, and took it on themselves to develop the local population, the Maori, by teaching them civilized ways. Te Wairoa, on the North Island of New Zealand, was designed and build as a model village which would help educate the Maori – and would help them become more English. The intention may have been good (although this is disputed), but it was misguided. A culture grows over centuries; transposing and imposing a culture from one country to another never works. English houses and factories, and English agriculture (wheat) were a poor match to the Maori way of life. Over time, conflicts grew about land use, with different Maori tribes claiming ownership. During these years Te Wairoa was abandoned, but eventually an arrangement was reached between the warring tribes and people returned. But the factory and church became abandoned and the original English colonizers, with all their good intentions, were slowly leaving. A new way of life developed, but it was very different from what either side of the divide had envisaged. Nature finally stepped in and brought the culture war to a close.

The location of Te Wairoa had been well chosen, in a fertile valley in between steep mountain sides and in between two lakes. One of those lakes, Lake Rotomohana, contained a marvellous and world-famous attraction: the Pink and White Terraces. Once the land dispute had been settled and the area became safe to visit, people came from far and wide. And the tourists kept coming. They would travel to New Zealand just to see this. Quickly, tourism became a better source of income than English agriculture. The viewing experience was well organised. A sign at the entrance to Te Wairoa listed the exact charges for guiding. Every day during the season, some 20 people would visit the Terraces on a strict itinerary: evening entertainment in the village, travel by canoe to visit the White Terraces at 11 am, lunch with boiled crayfish at one of the hot springs, afternoon bathing at the Pink Terraces, and return to Te Wairoa where there would be concerts and dancing. The guiding was largely done by women. The local Maori became well off. This also brought a new group of English with commercial interests, and they owned the local businesses and hotels. By the end, some 120 Maori and 15 Europeans lived in the village. Alcoholism had become a problem.

The end came suddenly. In the previous days, one of the Maori guides had noted an increase in hydrothermal activity at the lake. Apart from this, there was no warning. Soon after midnight on June 10, 1886, an earthquake swarm started, which increased in strength. The eruption itself began around 2am with a “roar like a tornado”. Te Wairoa found itself next to the second largest eruption to hit New Zealand since the arrival of the Maori. When morning came, the village no longer existed.

The mountain itself was hidden from view from Te Wairoa, and the main eye witness accounts are from further away. They describe the onset: “There was no sign of a storm, the wind was steady and the stars shining; but right over the eastern end of Ruawahia was a high, thin column of black smoke with a spreading top looking not unlike an immense mushroom. All this smoke cloud was blazing with lightning, which scintillated through every part of it and, shooting out from its dark edges fringed them with vivid light. The total height of this column when first seen would have been about 5000 feet; and it stood quite straight as though not subject to the action of any wind….”

(The quotation is taken from Keam 2015. Sources for the post are listed at the end.) The observer saw flames rising 500 meter high coming from the top of Tarawera mountain. And shortly after, perhaps around 3am, a large explosion was seen some 10 kilometer southwest of the mountain; the cloud, first white, then black, rolled across the landscape. It rendered the remainder of the eruption invisible.

This large explosion had happened under Lake Rotomahana, the lake southeast of Te Wairoa. The cloud that it generated was not just ash and smoke. The bottom of the lake had blown up, and the cloud brought a rain of mud, stones and cinders which lasted for 3 hours. Te Wairoa was buried under a meter of mud; other places were hit even harder. There are desperate descriptions of people trying in vain to support the roofs of their homes. Some died in the collapses, others escaped into the streets enduring the rain of mud and stones.

The school house of Te Wairoa, July 1886. The school teacher, his son and two of his daughters had died in the eruption. Source: Alexander Turnbull Library

There had been many more explosions, but they had been unobserved behind the cloud of mud. A 16-km long, straight rift had opened, running from the mountain through Lake Rotomahana and beyond. The explosions that occurred as the rising magma met the ground water thundered across the landscape. They were heard 130 km away on the North Island, and even people in Christ Church, on the South Island, noted the distant explosions. In Auckland, the explosions were first heard around 2:30am, and lasted until after 4am. At the coast the black cloud brought darkness; even ships at sea found themselves under a rain of ash.

When the eruption was over, around 6:30am and after only 4 hours, some 120 people had died. It had been the end of the tourist season and only three tourists had been staying at the local hotels. But there had been a Maori wedding that evening and guests had come for that. A few of the smaller Maori dwellings survived better than the large houses, but most of the 70 houses, the village hall, the hotels and the factory were destroyed. Survivors had been propping up the roofs against the weight of the mud. Other had fled the collapsing buildings. In the morning people started digging out the survivors. 11 inhabitants of Te Wairoa had died. But there had been several small settlements around the shore of Lake Rotomahana, and those had been completely destroyed. Here, only a single person survived.

Te Wairoa was never rebuild, although for a while it still attracted tourists who came to view the destruction. Te Wairoa is now mainly known as New Zealand’s best known archeological site.

A mountain split

Summit fissure (source: photovolcanica)

The eruption had occurred along a straight and fairly narrow rift. It started at the northeast side of the summit of Tarawera, where afterwards there were two craters. From here the rift passed southwest through the extended summit where the three domes had split completely. The summit was covered in pyroclastic ejecta which in places reached 75 meters in thickness. After a short gap, the rift continued along the southwest slope down the mountain. Beyond that there was a further rift sections and craters, which terminated at the newly formed Rotomahana crater. After another gap, there more craters further southwest for another 3 kilometers, in the Waimangu section. The penultimate one was Waimanga (Black crater).

The 1886 rift eruption

The summit rift showed 13 separate craters, and as many as 50 vents. The Rotomahana section had at least 4 craters, and the Waimangu section had a line of craters which still showed minor hydrothermal explosions years after the eruption had ended.

Echo crater (source: photovolcanica)

The Waimangu section remained hydrothermally active for even longer. Black crater surprised everyone when fourteen years after the eruption it suddenly developed a large geyser. The geyser is still listed as the largest known: at times it erupted 400 meters high. The geyser activity ended after 4 years. Nowadays it is known as Echo crater and although the geyser is gone, there is still a hot spring which erupted mud as recently as 2016.

The summit eruption was plinian and it was basaltic. That is an unusual combination. Basalt tends to erupt effusively, without large explosions, because it does not have much volatile content which can drive explosions. And whereas basaltic plinian eruptions are already rare, Tarawera is unique in doing it simultaneously along such a long rift with so many individual eruption locations. And even stranger, Tarawera is not a basaltic volcano. Previous eruptions here produced rhyolite, with only very minor basaltic components. It appears that often, the rhyolite eruptions were triggered by a small basaltic intrusion, but the eruptions came from the activated rhyolite magma chambers. But in this case, the basalt came up and bypassed any rhyolite magma that may have been present. A dike was emplaced underneath the summit (possibly two dikes of which only one reached the surface) and very rapidly progressed along the rift direction. At the lowest point along the rift, where Lake Rotomahana was located, it produced massive phreato-magmatic explosions (i.e. water-magma interaction). The Rotomahana crater left by these explosions was 2.5 kilometers across. Further down-rift the explosions were equally watery but smaller.

The rift as it was shortly after the 1886 eruption.

And the explosions at the summit should not be underestimated either. Here, no water was involved. The scoria that was ejected from the summit covered an area of 10,000 km2. The wind blew the ejecta north and northeast, towards Whakatane. The plinian eruption appears to have come from four of the 13 summit craters, with eruptions speeds of 300 m/s. The other craters erupted with less intensity, and build smaller scoria deposits within about 500 meters of the rift.

The structure and composition of the basaltic ejecta indicates that the magma had been relatively cool, at 1100C (this is the temperature in the dike underground – not the lava ejection temperature which is rarely known) and had been fairly shallow (1-2 kbar, or 2-3 km depth). The reason why there was only 1-2 hours of earthquake activity prior to the eruption was that the dike was already quite close to the surface. But there was no existing conduit, and instead the dike ripped open the entire summit. The northeast-southwest direction which the dike and rift followed is a common alignment at Tarawera. The sides of the rift show some sideways shift, perhaps caused by a combination of some extension and rotation. The stress field made it easy for the dike to push its way out and up along this path.

The ejecta at Rotomahana were different from those from the summit craters. This was the so-called Rotomahana mud. It too contained basalt, but this was only around 20% of the ejecta. The rest was pulverized ground. The soil and rock around Tarawera are from older, rhyolitic eruptions. This was taken up in the ejecta, which became a mix of fresh basalt and ancient, cold rhyolite. In fact the same mixture is seen at the summit but with a much higher percentage of basalt, of up to 85%.

Rotomahana mud

The Rotomahana mud formed a dune field, extending up to 6 kilometers from the new crater. This indicates a base surge. The fact that the distance observer saw the explosion causing first a white and then a black cloud also points at this. Base surges are common in phreato-magmatic (shallow underground) explosions. The gas vents vertically out of the crater hole, flows over the crater edge and moves out horizontally over the ground, as an expanding ring around the explosion column. The surge cloud hugs the ground while moving out at speeds of typically 50 m/s (100 miles/hour, if you prefer these units). The surge carries the ash, mud and even stones, well beyond distances to which the rocks could be thrown by the eruption. Te Wairoa was hit by such a base surge.

Te Wairoa after the eruption. The building is a part of the old flour mill. The dune field left by the base surge is clearly visible.

The deposits change from the deep mud near the lake to a volcanic ‘flour’ further away. The two have the same composition, but the water-soaked material dropped out of the surge closer to the lake, with the dry ash traveling further. This is also the cause of the change from a white (vapour) to a black (dust) cloud. Layering of the ejecta shows that the surge dried out later in the eruption, with a thin layer of flour dropped on top of the thick mud. Whether this was because the water in the lake had all been used up, or that the mud ceased to be carried as far as the eruption declined, is an open question. The dry flour consists mainly of old rhyolitic deposits, remobilized by the explosion, with some 20% fresh basalt. The temperature of the dry flour may have been as high as 150C: trees in the region were scorched, showing the base surge was hot (unlike ash fall which is cold). But it was not as hot as a pyroclastic flow would have been, and perhaps the water in the mud kept the temperature down around the lake since none of the reports of the eruption mention heat.

The eruption was very destructive. In those four hours, some 1.3 to 2 km3 of pulverized rock, scoria and lava was ejected, making this a VEI 5 eruption. The numbers are based on several different and independent measurements of the thickness and extent of the deposits. About half the volume came from the summit eruption, and half from the Rotomahana explosion. But most of the lava came from the summit: Rotomahana contained less than 1/5th of the ejected basalt. This is an indication that the power of the Rotomahana explosion came from the interaction with the lake water. The basaltic lava itself had relatively little volatiles (less than 2% water content), and the plinian summit eruption instead was driven by the straight pressure on the dike. In contrast, the lake provided volatiles and turned what would otherwise have been a smaller explosion far along the rift into a borderline VEI-5. Phreato-magmatic eruptions are far more dangerous than the amount of lava involved may suggest. At Tarawera, all of the casualties came from the lake explosion.

The region has changed in the 135 year since the eruption. The volcanic grey, impassable wilderness has greened. The craters are filled with water, and formed new lakes with new outflows. Not all of the 1886 craters are still recognizable in the landscape. Rotomahana crater too has became a lake, different in shape to lake that went before. The level of the lake is much higher than it was before the eruption: the original outflow was blocked after the eruption. New thermal fields and hot springs have developed. There are now geysers along the western side of Lake Rotomahana. As the lake level rises and falls, different geysers become active; geyser activity is seen if the exit is no more than 3 meters above the level of the lake. When the lake drops, geysers higher up may still discharge warm water but do so without steam explosions, while new geysers appear lower down.

But this hydrothermal activity cannot undo the damage of the eruption. Te Wairou lost its village – and its biggest attraction.

The Pink and White Terraces

The world-famous White Terraces, cascading down the mountain. The Pink Terraces were a separate, smaller cascade

It was know as the 8th wonder of the world. This title may be queried. The original, ancient list had contained nine world wonders, leaving no vacancy at number 8. And there is competition for the title: many things have been called the 8th wonder. The strangest one, perhaps was the suggestion by Albert Einstein of compound interest: he reportedly said “He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.” Even King Kong was nominated at one time. The Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon are on the list. The Taj Mahal would qualify, as the original list was about marvels of engineering, not those of nature. But all visitors agreed that the Pink and White Terraces were a world-class marvel. Therefore, after the Rotohamana explosion, people quickly went to see the damage to them.

They could not even decide where the Terraces had been. Not enough of the landscape had survived for them to get their bearings. The Auckland Evening Star newspaper described the scene, shortly after the eruption: “.instead of a splendid sheet of water, there was opened out immediately beneath our feet, its edge not 250 yards distant, a huge crater, belching out showers of mud and stones from innumerable yawning mouths, amid dense volumes of steam and smoke, with a din and roar and rattle baffling description. Stones were being ejected high into the air from eleven separate orifices or small craters, on the side nearest to us, and the volumes of steam and smoke prevented further vision into the centre of the old lake site. A partial clearing away of the vaporous envelope, however, occasionally gave a brief glimpse into the gloomy recesses of the great crater revealing only a bed of steaming seething mud in flats and hillocks, bubbling and spouting in ceaseless ebullition. A small patch of discoloured water was dimly distinguishable in one part, but the lake was gone—not only the water, but the bottom driven out, scooping the bed to a depth of at least 250 feet below the old level…. The great crater was over a mile long and half a mile wide.

And together with the lake, the Pink and White Terraces too were gone. People have been looking for the remnants ever since. The largest explosion happened very close to the White Terraces and it is unlikely any part of it survived. But the Pink Terraces were further away: are they perhaps just buried underneath the 10 or 15 meters of mud? The ejecta covering Te Wairoa and surrounding areas included many silica fragments which resembled the material of the Terraces, but we do not know whether they come from one or both Terraces. Every now and then a report comes out that remnants of the Terraces have been located deep under the lake. But these reports have not been confirmed and the claims do not agree with each other. The lake has risen by 30 meters or more and any remnant would now be under water. But this rise came slowly after the eruption, and the early searches had a dry view of any surviving areas. Even if they had been buried by deep Rotomahana mud, part of them could easily have been uncovered as the mud was washed away. The steps between Terraces could be several meters. It therefore seems likely that the Pink Terraces too were mostly or fully destroyed. Only one of the original ancient world wonders survives, so this puts the Terraces in good company. But there is always hope and perhaps one day the remnants will be uncovered.

Volcanoes continuously redevelop the land they occupy. What they destroy may well over time reform. But so far, the famous Terraces show no sign of being recreated.

The name Lake Rotomahana means ‘warm lake’ and this is already an indication of the hydrothermal activity in the region. The White Terraces, on the northeastern shore of the lake, were fed from the Te Tarata geyser 30 meters above the lake. (The same name was also used for the Terraces themselves.) The silica-rich water descended from here to the lake, depositing the Terraces in the process with some 50 large pools and many more small ones. The Pink Terraces were smaller and on the opposite shore, and came from a spring also located 30 meters high, along a steep valley. The Pink Terraces were not pink everywhere: they were marble white at the bottom, but turned pink and rose higher up; the pool at the top was cobalt blue. The upper pools of the Pink Terraces had the best temperature for bathing.

Similar cinter terraces exist elsewhere in the world, for instance at Mammoth Springs in Yellowstone and Pamukkale in Turkey. Those at Rotomahana were larger and (reportedly) more impressive. It was also unique to have two such wonders on the same lake.

Pummakale, Turkey (image from wikipedia)

Before the eruption, the lake was bordered on its eastern side by a 50-meter high ridge. This ridge may have been the wall of an older caldera. The Te Tarata geyser was located on the slope of this ridge. The sketch below is the only map in existence of the old lake. The Terraces are the larger yellow areas near the bottom left (the Pink Terraces) and the centre (the White Terraces). The Pink Terraces were fed by a spring with a temperature of 80C, while the White Terraces came from a boiling intermittent geyser. The other yellow areas were fed by cooler springs which had deposited silica on the valley floors but which had not developed the silica basins of the Terraces. Temperature matters.

And the temperature was impressive. The geologist Hochstetter once camped on the small Puqi island in Rotomahana. He was not comfortable: “The whole ground is . . . so warm from below that I started from my couch unable to bear it any longer”. He put a thermometer into the ground. When pulling it out, hot steam came from the hole.

from Keam 2015

It is notable that the various cool springs, hot springs and geysers were some 30 meters above the lake level. That is very different from the current situation where the new geysers are found below 3 meters above the lake level (albeit with a much higher lake level.) It is clear that the water supply for those pre-1886 springs and geysers did not come from the lake, but benefitted from much higher pressure than provided by the water. The geyser water had been in contact with hot rocks, which were likely to have been at some depth. Indeed, ground water can circulate to kilometers depth. Rising to the surface, it avoided the lake. Instead the water came up through the ridge next to the lake, perhaps following an old eruption conduit.

Plausibly, that the water got its pressure from Tarawera, and came down underground from the summit, following a flow channel at some depth. This underground direction which also brought it in contact with the warm (even hot) heart of the mountain. The dike of the 1886 eruption followed the same direction. When the magma came, it found the water already along the rift, ready to power the explosions.

This water flow must have been stable over a long time. Estimates for how long it may have taken to build up the Terraces range from 1000 to 10,000 years. And this happened while the lake level fluctuated and the volcano cycled through its phases of activity. The Terraces formed in a most unlikely location. Geyser fields normally indicate a deeply dormant volcano.

Where did the silica that formed the Terraces come from? The region was covered in old rhyolitic deposits, and rhyolite has a very high percentage of silica. Silica is slow to dissolve in water, however this becomes much faster when the water is very hot: the solubility peaks at around 300C, which obviously requires high pressure. As the water reaches the surface, it rapidly cools and the silica precipitates again, covering the valley floor in silica. This happens in the Hidden Valley in nearby Taupo, as shown in this video. The colours in the video are caused by microbes. In contrast, the colour of the Pink Terraces was intrinsic to the silica. The precise origin is not known, but trace elements in the silica such as iron are likely to blame. (Even gold has been suggested, perhaps a bit optimistic!)

To turn a silica-rich water flow into the Terraces requires a largely flat area where the water can be caught behind small barriers. The ponded water itself now creates a level surface where the silica is deposited on the floor of the pool. As it flows over the barrier, it also deposited here. The barrier grows higher and eventually the standing water becomes a proper pool and a Terrace. The dripping water on the outside of the step barrier can cause stalactite-like formations, which did indeed exist on the Pink and White Terraces. Building such structures takes time. A shorter-lived flow will only cause a white surface, as in the Hidden Valley.

Photograph of the White Terraces, taken between 1880 and 1886

Heat measurements have shown that the hydrothermal system beneath the Pink Terraces still exists. The hot water now mainly exits below the lake, but there are also geysers along the western shore. Gravity anomalies suggest there may be a basaltic dike hiding here underneath the old rhyolite ridge, a remnant of the 1886 eruption. But there is no heat signature at this location of the White Terraces, and its hydrothermal system was likely fully destroyed in the explosions. If the Terraces ever do re-form, it will not be in the same location. And probably, they never will. We are left with memories of a misguided model village and a world-class attraction.

Post and future

Tarawera has a dangerous side. Over many years it build up a world wonder, only to destroy it in just a few hours. This was never a safe place to build a model English village. The land disputes were settled once and for all, once the volcano showed what it was capable of. But the Maori could have known. The 1886 eruption was the second largest eruption since the New Zealand settlement. The largest eruption had happened some 500 year earlier. This early eruption is a key moment not just in the settlement of New Zealand, but even in the peopling of the Pacific. But that is another story.

Albert, November 2021


Te Wairoa, The Buried Village: A Summary of Recent Research and Excavations. Alexy Simmons, 1991. Australian Journal of Historical Archaeology, Vol. 9 (1991), pp. 56-62

The Tarawera eruption, Lake Rotomahana, and the origin of the Pink and White Terraces. Ronald Keam, 2015, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 314, Pages 10-38

Tarawera 1886: an integrated review of volcanological and geochemical characteristics of a complex basaltic eruption. Michael C. Rowe, Rebecca J. Carey, James D. L. White, et al., 2021. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 64:2-3, 296-319,

599 thoughts on “The Terraces of Tarawera

  1. Why is the TV Canarias camera shaking like the tremor was double as high as it used to be during the powerful beginning in September?
    Wind velocity is just 6 km/h according to the afarTV stream!

    • How much lava have erupted now in cubic meters?

      Now I realise how enormous Holuhraun, Leilani, Galapagos 2018 and even a Hekla eruption. Hekla 2000 did 0,2 km3 in just days

      • Probably over 0.3 km3. That is what you get from 70 days at 5 m3/s effusion rate. The lava is forming tubes but it also turns to a’a on the surface, so probably exceeds the point where shear strength can turn the lava to a’a on flat ground, which is about 5m3/s.
        I think you might have missed my posts on why this lava is not going to look like Hawaiian lava, the thin pahoehoe crust is transparent. It is also silica undersaturated, so the thin crust is not mechanically strong, and that favors the a’a crust. I have seen videos of 1949 and it looks identical to the current lava.

        • While the number is supposedly in the 0.2 km^3 as of these days, there appears to be an error in your math:
          70 d * 86400 s * 5 m^3/s = 30e6 m^3 = 0.03 km^3 as opposed to 0.3 km^3.
          As a consequence effusion rate must have been about 10 times as high, at least during both September and October.

          • Yes I thought something was wrong in the maths, but only too late after posting it. Still, I think the volume is significant, the flow rate is not that low and is pretty well sustained.

        • As far as I can see, apart from lots of relatively insoluble silicates, there is no de facto reason why a significant part of lava is not water soluble. Wiki suggests alkali metals comprise quite a high percentage (~4-8%) of many lavas and these would likely have produce reasonably soluble compounds.
          I also note that chemically (that is if you dissolved them and back titrated) all lavas seem to be acidic (carbonates excluded) and this denomination should be considered a geotechnical term like astronomers stellar “metals” (=all elements other than H, He) denoting % silica..

      • Nyiragongo is ultra – alkaline and does fluid smooth pahoehoe, just like Hawaii

        But perhaps Nyiragongos viscosity is just alot lower than La Palma .. as is Hawaii too :). But yes you maybe right about the physics in alkaline lavas here.

        • But it isnt really a lot lower, we see the lava in La Palma after it has degassed in a tube, up until yesterday. That new fissure looks just like lava in Hawaii to me, fluid lava pouring out of a hole and spattering.

          Virunga volcanoes also form only a’a surface lava in faster eruptions. This is more of a fast eruption than a slow one.

      • Holuhraun was a hot highly fluid Hawaiian style thoelitic basalt, extremely fluid in the vent and channel in Baugur. Very gas rich, but it turned to Aa lava because of the high eruption rates of course.

        But Holuhraun does not have smooth pahoehoe spillover overflows near the lava channels that fissure 8 had and all very fluid fast lava channels. This is probaly because Holuhraun was indeed full of microlites, micro crystals, the gas content probaly helpt Aa formation too.

        • Holuhraun actually does have pahoehoe, if you look closely on google earth it is smooth around the . Maybe the low angle of the sun doesnt light up the lava as well. Holuhraun also looked to stay a bit closer to the cone in general than Ahu’aila’au (yes I know the actual distance lava flowed was further but Ahu’aila’au was cut off by the ocean), lava was more ponded and slower with greater total active surface, so probably cooled down faster even though it was hotter initially. Lava at Kapoho is mostly a’a, where it was flat, same for Laki, in both of those cases the lava could flow a long way from the vents before finding a flat spot. Kilauea 1960 eruption might be a better analogue for Holuhraun because it was also entirely on a flat spot, the exact same flat area as the 2018 delta actually, and it is also mostly a’a. I noticed also that those big flows from Vatnafjoll also sit on very flat areas, and where vents did open on steeper parts there are channels and pahoehoe.

          So seems fast eruptions on flat ground still make a’a, to get pahoehoe channels the lava has to actually be able to flow away from the vent, and it is a natural process of the channels overflowing sometimes.

    • It maybe pahoehoe But looks nothing like Fagradalshraun, Hawaii or Nyiragongo that both haves smooth almost aluminium looking pahoehoes close to the vents.

      It coud also be that La Palmas pahoehoe is gas rich and frothy
      ( Hawaii is gas rich too ) but Im pretty soure This is higher viscosity than Hawaiian pahoehoes .. But very few sillicate lavas are as fluid as Hawaii and Fagradalshraun anyway

  2. Not really volcano related, but certainly earthquake related:

    Does anyone know where this fault is?

    It looks middle eastern/west asian going on the topography and small strip field agriculture to me.

    Lots of people in the comments say it’s the San Andreas fault, while others say it can’t be, because it’s a slip fault rather than a transform fault. So, VCers, any ideas?

    • Also the fault must be quite recent because it disrupts the parallel linear (ie modern) roads.

    • I wish I knew where that was (you’ve got me very curious; that’s astounding, whatever it is!) but where I’m pretty sure it isn’t is on the San Andreas. There’s only a few areas of that fault in farmland like that (the rest is mountains, desert, etc) and I’ve seen much of it (I grew up near it). I’m also fairly sure that it isn’t anywhere in California.

      Whatever it is looks exceedingly recent geologically. It also looks astoundingly straight, so much so that part of me wonders if it’s a scene from a movie.

      It might be easier to find where this is if we searched using the geologic name for a feature like that, and I haven’t a clue. Anyone know what this sort of chasm is called, and what might have caused it?

      • People in the comments thought it was CGI, but it’s too good, too detailed to be that: would a CGI artist think to put in all the erosion scree going down into the fault, or the wiggly road routes down, and into it and out agin – especially if it was supposed to be the fault created by the earthquake in the movie, when of course there would be no roads crossing it.

        I know CGI is good these days, but it’s not that good!

    • If this were a real picture / video, we would know the place. There’s absolutely no way a feature like this would not be a photographic and geology magnet.

      Also, parallel block faulting is absent from the lips of the edges; you’d have smaller blocks falling into the main. No geological feature is that neat due to the different tensile strengths of the rock layers through the area.

      Crafty CGI, though.

  3. General question:
    What is scientific definition of eruption end?

    Of course there won’t just be no emissions at all, there is often remaining some harmless fumarolic activity.
    But if eruption end can’t be tied to “no volcanic effects at all”, then where do scholars set the borderline of volcanic effects to say the eruption is erased??

    • (I’m not talking of the definition of “the whole volcano is deleted and will never ever erupt anymore”)

    • I think Global Volcanism Program considers the end of an eruption when a volcano stops erupting lava and doesn’t resume within 3 months.

    • “Overall, 48 volcanoes were in continuing eruption status as of 15 October 2021. An eruption marked as “continuing” does not always mean persistent daily activity, but indicates at least intermittent eruptive events without a break of 3 months or more.”

      • Hmmm thank you for your explanation.
        It brings me however, to a new question that is:
        How could they possibly have claimed that FAF is over “FAF eruption has officially ended” or something the likes, if we are yet to have December 18?
        Since only on 12/18 have we 3 months without eruption.

    • I guess we have to wait and see if more earthquakes start appearing at 10-15km after the deep ones, and/or if the eruption has an increase in activity, that may indicate more magma has been pushed up.
      I do not believe that those deep ones are only due to emptying deep reservoirs, the eruption rate seems to be stable.

          2021/11/27 09:50:27

          + info
          2021/11/27 09:06:56

          + info
          2.6 mbLg

          2021/11/27 09:04:40

          + info
          2021/11/27 08:44:53

          + info
          2.5 mbLg

          2021/11/27 08:40:50

          + info
          2021/11/27 08:34:10

          + info
          2.8 mbLg

          2021/11/27 08:33:01

          + info
          2.5 mbLg

          2021/11/27 08:32:45

          + info
          2.8 mbLg

          2021/11/27 08:26:47

          + info
          2.9 mbLg

          2021/11/27 07:54:25

          + info
          2.4 mbLg

          2021/11/27 07:11:50

          + info

  4. Africas Chyulu Hills=
    sounds like Cthulhu Hills!

    Wouldn’t not supprise me if that’s where good ol HPL got the name 🙂

  5. At 11:18 UTC on you can notice how in the middle of the lava flow section it is extremely bright. Normally it used to be bright at the edges but not in the middle.
    As such I presume this to be reflection from the sky.
    I reckon this may happen due to the glassy structure of the lava at the beginning of the open air flow.

    • Denaliwatch please read What USGS says about Mauna Loas true height
      Its about 17 100 meters tall, thats How tall this volcano is, this data cannot be denied: dont become a flat earther like my grandpa 😉

      I understands Alberts point that Mauna Loa have depressed the seafloor by its own weight. Carl Rhenberg may write an article about this stuff soon, thats been the plan before by him.

      • Better to say that Hawaii is 20 km thick, not tall. It is 10 km tall above the base of the island on the sea floor.

      • Yes Thats perhaps a better word for it: Big Islands lava pile is 20 kilometers thick
        And If Hawaii Big Is was on a slower moving oceanic litosphere like atlantic it woud be alot bigger still, and even thicker.

        The already Big Pile Thats Big Island must hold heat fantasticaly well, Big Island is already the size of a small dwarf planet

    • But since Mauna Loa started growing on the seafloor, You haves a pile Thats almost 20 kilometers tall by now, that have warped the seafloor downwards by its own weight. Hawaiian Volcanoes are so massive that the litosphere can barely support them, they sink into the mantle.


    Nice video from La Palma
    Showing a glowing yellow ribbon of lava
    Yes chad maybe correct, its a transparrent glass skinn on it. On Hawaii the yellow river woud quickly form a grey flexible crust on it.
    Perhaps alkaline lava glass is indeed stranger than we tought. Its now Basanites thats erupting

    • Hahaha good is there IR sensors.
      Without them nobody sane would understand what is really going on.
      The hose system has become that mature that lava could be flowing virtually from everywhere to everywhere, except maybe uphills.

    • It Maybe able to tube over we will see
      But it haves to be going for quite a while to do that

    • Yes this stuff really looks liquid close to the vent, and entire flow is glowing too, perhaps a transparrent glass crust on it

    • Looks like the eruption is dying soon
      But lava effusion may continue
      Is La Palma inflating or deflating now ?

  7. Does someone know why Yasur behaves so weirdly comparing to other volcanoes. Is it really that unique or is a Yasur-kind of eruption with that kind of length one that happens more frequently in the past. And what are the mechanics / drivers behind such an eruption. Is it possible Yasur sit on top of a hotspot (or something similar) as well as on a plate boundary?

    I don’t know, it’s why I ask. It’s just a volcano I absolutely don’t understand.

    • Not a very productive volcano, its just very open like Stromboli, non stop strombolian activity and small even lava lakes, its the magma column pipes thats exposed to surface. Souch setup can last thousands of years. Non stop Strombolian bursts.
      Seems to be an ideal tourist volcano

    • Rising gas bubbles in a magma pipe
      Ysaur haves quite Viscous basalts, and that allows ”gas slug flow” in the conduits and burps

      • Not sure it is that viscous, the videos of the open vents show lava lakes a lot like the ones that existed on Ambrym. Probably high gas content rather than high magma viscosity.

    • The situation can be summarized as complicated, and there is a deep trench there, plus several microplates and a strike-slip situation between the islands. The film in the link is useful:
      And of course Albert about Solomon Islands, same area, map of northern part:
      “The stress of geological war fare has caused fragmentation and the area is now a jumble of five microplates. To complicate things, some of the microplates have rotated. The subducting plate is currently the Solomon plate, a fragment of the Australian plate. The Solomon plate is descending at a very steep angle (70 degrees). In consequence, the subduction trench is rather deep, at 8 km, and the volcanic front is quite close to the trench. The adjacent Woodlark plate is not subducting, and so both the subduction trench and the line of volcanoes end suddenly near the southeastern edge of Bougainville.”

      • Thats the tectonics of the arera yes, But Thats not really related to the individual volcanoes behaviour: Ysaur coud have been almost anything there

  8. There is a new primary vent on La Palma, behind the cone. It is erupting a strong fountain as well as an advancing a’a flow that seems to be getting faster as we speak. Just as the eruption looked like it was ending it has gone back full swing again.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s full swing. But as per definition of magma surfacing and becoming lava, eruption is still going on, yes.

      • As of about 20 minutes ago there is also at least one new effusive vent, below the first new vent. Lava looks very fluid just like that other fissure on the south side a few days ago.

        There is also a new flow that has gone further north than any previously. I would say the eruption is not slower at all, just less explosive, the conduits are more open so gas can escape easier. I would not entirely be surprised if we see a lava lake form eventually.

        • Make that 4 new effusive vents, each with a dome fountain, a lot of lava on its way down the mountain now. This fissure seems to be at a weird angle to the original fissure trend, i wonder if maybe it forms an arc with the fissure formed the other day, a double radial dike?
          Will have to wait until new pictures of the area but if this is true it is probably indicating an open conduit wit hits own plumbing instead of still being a fissure and dike like it was to begin with. That in turn means this eruption is probably going to last until there is literally no magma left to feed it, and given the depth it draws from that could be a considerable volume. This might be something like Pu’u O’o or Timanfaya after all…

        • First of all the volcano is chaotic as sh**.
          Opens 4 new gushers just to relieve pressure/magma, just to starve them again half an hour later.
          Was the familiar west vent blocked?? Or why did it feel like opening 4 vents in a pristine area for just 30 min?

    • The diameter of you know what is around 1000 km. When you figure out the circumference and add it to the height you get in the region of that number. That is the only place (with the exception of wiki of course) where that number shows up, so it might be one of those mistakes that happen every single day in every field. Who knows who writes those leaflets. Or somebody added feet for ocean floor to meters for mountain. Who knows. It’s a bit crazy because then we could start doing it to Teide as well or the Kuriles or anywhere. Add rock and sediment and suspected isostasy issues. The Matterhorn is prettier an only 4478 m. Who cares.

      • The 20 kilometers of depth of Big Island is all lava flows, and not warped bedrock, thats why it can be counted in as its true height. Thats what USGS trys to say.

        But indeed the pile have pressed down the seafloor

        • I was talking to Chad. You figure that out for Las Canadas I-IV now. Have fun.

          • The 17 km thickness if actually official USGS data, the reason it isnt done for other locations as much is either because the number is unknown or (more likely) the effect is much less pronounced. Mauna Loa is 4200 meters above sea level but it has probably been that tall for a long time, instead of growing taller now it just stays the same height and depresses the crust. Actually long term it has begun to fall behind, Kilauea is where the growth is far outpacing the subsidence rate now.

            Teide is not a shield, it is a huge stratovolcano but I doubt it has the same effect of depressing the crust so much. Really among oceanic island volcanoes that are still active only Reunion and the Galapagos might compare to Hawaii in this metric. Iceland really is more analogous to a continent other than being made mostly of basalt, the island isnt a pile of lava flows like Hawaii but mostly plutonic crust,

        • Well, Chad, thickness sounds better. Then age certainly plays a role, that`’s why I came up with Fuji, Komatake. then of course isostacy.
          Now, basically this doesn’t make sense in terms of comparisons. Every computer could figure out a height of a mountain starting in the middle of the core. Then we would see what comes out as highest.

          The other question is what is going on down there when the ocean crust is only between 6 and 7 km thick. Would it create a rift zone? That’s an interesting question.
          And I think it is also interesting that the so-called mantle plume here doesn’t work for the Emperor Chain (a volcano in the middle not aligned according to new measurements from Japan) and the Lava of Big Island’s single volcanoes different from each other. So, when they do research down there they might be looking what’s going on there in the sense of plate tectonics. Last but not least, the triple junction between the Phoenix (later Pacific), the Kula/Izinagi and the Farallon plate is suspected either under the Shatsky Rise or unter Hawai’i, so somewhere in the area.

          • Plume is proposed because of the relatively unique characteristics of Hawaii. Its location is the main one, but also the composition of the lava, its very high temperature, and the extreme production rate of magma. There are other places similar to this but Hawaii is really quite alone in the world in terms of combining all of these things together. Second place I think would be galapagos, and then Iceland, but both of those are also affected by a divergent boundary to a lesser or greater extent and how much that plays into it is a variable that Hawaii does not have.

            I think you might want to look at Hector’s posts on Kilauea and Hawaii, it does propose a lot of controversial changes to the accepted model, but I find it makes a lot of sense. Magma composition differences though are flexible, the fact it varies is not really an argument against a single source, just that the path taken to the surface is different.

            As for susidence of the crust under Hawaii creating a rift zone, that is an interesting proposition. It isnt goign to break the plate, but it might serve to increase melt generation in the peak growth stage. i have proposed an idea that a volcan ogrows until it subsides enough that the source is diverted to the south under the bottom of the crust, to create the next volcano. it is based on the location of the Pahala swarm, and that Kilauea would have the thinnest pile of lava as it is still young and growing. HVO has always denied any strong correlation between Pahala and eruptions, but the fact the swarm went crazy following the 2018 eruption seems a glaring hole in that theory…

      • Chad while Mauna Loa been very productive in recorded history and eruptions been very frequent and spectacular. Is Mauna Loa at the very end of the shield building phase? Or coud it grow 10 000 km3 more thoelites before slipping into the alkaline state?

      • Height of a volcano is relative anyway. Mount St.Helens had a height of 2,950 meters before May 18, 1980 and now 2550 m measured on the crater rim on the southwestern side. Relative like the height of an ice shield which has the same consequences of isostacy. Mountains without magmatism can have the same problem. So Tschirgant, Ötztal, Tyrol, lost a volume 240 million m³ which came down on an area around the river Inn of 13 km² about 3000 years ago. That was a flank collapse caused by erosion.

      • Then also when I tried to find other sources for this gl suddenly offered me (due to wrong key words) pages and pages and endless pages about sea level rise around Hawai’i due to – of course – climate change.
        Now it’s well possible that the sea levels rise, but to measure it you need a stable reference point or several. Big Island with four huge volcanoes and obviously subsidence doesn’t seem to be the right place then, and the same goes for a lot of Pacific Islands.
        So, all research, even if you don’t get results, at least leads to something. To measure the sea level I would suggest passive continental margins, but sea levels are often measured in the Pacific Ocean. And this with a clear story of erosion, subsidence and daily earthquakes, perfectly seen in the submerged islands between Meiji and Big Island and also in Vanatu.

      • Some people – Sager is not alone – have serious doubts and are working on better explanations. Could be that there was not enough research about the past of the Pacific Plate in 1970, when Tuzo Wilson suggested a mantle plume:
        It’s a good read about a hotspot-tango, sort of.

  9. Etna can have very fluid magmas, and it haves an open conduit system and very high magma supply: Whats the chance for an Ambrym style lava lake in Etnas summit?

    • Probably will do that as soon as one of its summit craters takes over as the only vent, then it will eventually form a shallow storage of some sort and probably a lava lake afterwards. It probably did all of those things in the 1600s, which is why most eruptions of that era were completely effusive, unlike most recent eruptions which were more strombolian even as flank eruptions. Central crater complex is older and more mature but seems recently the SEC is much more open, and much more productive. At present though SEC is building a small stratovolcano, it might take a collapse to open it up to form a lava lake as happened at Nyiragongo. Still is probably going to take something pretty significant to do that, the conduit is proving very robust, in the last 50 years surviving the double flank eruption in 2001-2003 (0.3 km3 total) and numerous lateral eruptions of variable size.

    • Looks bad and looks alot like Nyiramuragiras lava: because its the same composition and same temperatures probably. This is becomming a sizable eruption! I never tought it woud become this big, I tought it woud barely reach 50 million cubic meters when it started

      • No one thought it would get this big, not even the volcanologists. It has proved everyone wrong who has tried to predict it.

        As far as parasitic vents go, they were seen at Teneguia, showing up around half way into the eruption but generally minor unlike this. Parasitic vents are a new intrusion, the flank fissures we have seen so far (and also that in 1949) are all shallow offshoots of the main vents. Most of the new flows are that too, but the fountains need vertical height, they diverge at some distance below the new cone. Parasitic vents also probably mean this eruption is nowhere even close to ending, and that the conduit is fully formed, it will end only when there is no more magma accessible AKA not for a very long time.

        This is going to be something like Timanfaya or Pu’u O’o…

      • There seems to be a stable pathway up, this eruption is perhaps feeding from the Basanite accumulating zone below La Palma, the gas jetting on the cinder cones top shows how much gas thats avaible. The eruption will end When the magma pool is degassed, and perhaps when the magma zone is spent as you say
        If we are lucky it may react 1 cubic kilometers

  10. 14:03 UTC: Trees are burning, which proves that some lava has reached pristine areas.

  11. The emission of sulfur dioxide (SO2) from the Cumbre Vieja volcano has shot up again at a rate of between 30,000 and 49,999 tons per day, which together with the appearance of new outlets and other pouring, the rebound in tremor and seismicity makes scientists think that there will be an eruption for a while.

    So much so that “perhaps we will overcome” the 84 days of the eruption of Tehuya (1646) , the longest in the last 500 years on La Palma, Francisco Prieto, spokesman for the Emergency Plan steering committee, has admitted at a press conference. Volcanic of the Canary Islands (Pevolca).

    “Unfortunately, the forecast is that the eruption will not end in the short term,” added Prieto, who said that the crisis committee is attentive to the evolution of the new laundry , which at the moment runs close to the one so far more al north, and if it does not end up affecting more areas of the La Laguna neighborhood.

    At the moment, the lava that runs through this new lava flow is “quite fluid” and has already crossed the LP-212 road, from Tacande.

    “Let’s see if the emission of lava is paralyzed, as has happened with other emission centers in the southern part, or is mounted on the original ones”, added Prieto.

  12. In the tremor graph (whose amplitude indicates vibrations of the conduits when passing through the magma), we can see how today it has increased to values that we did not see in 10 days when we had the last prominent pulse. In the second graph you can see the last part enlarged

  13. I cannot believe what I am watching there are cars driving still on the road lower down from where the lava flow is heading and there are houses with cars still parked out at the front. I really hope if people are inside they are aware of what is coming down the hill behind them and they need to get out.

    • Ene, the distance to the actual lava flow has near 800 meters. The viewpoint put some distorsion on the image and have some clifft to reach. The problem has that road, That has the main access from the valley to the east side of the island. If the lava flow and reach them, can get a complete chaos on the heavy transports. Other vehicles can get by secundary roads and streets, but no the trailers and trucks.

      • Tv La palma has blow out your signal, with vengance to all with use your signal to monetize your videos and channels and hijack your work.

  14. 4.3 mbLg SW VILLA DE MAZO.ILP
    2021/11/28 19:05:49IV

    • Though it certainly is
      astonishing, fascinating, spectacular, interesting, educating, stunning, surprising and even at times a beautiful sight…

  15. Is Perseverance sampling rocks from a supervolcano?

    Some of the rocks in Jezero crater clearly were formed in an ancient lake. But before the lake, the crater and region were covered by olivine-rich deposits of uncertain origin. Perseverance has now collected two samples that point to an explosive history.

    • Interesting. Looks a bit like ocean floor, all the seamounts dry and eroded

  16. “En el día de hoy ha habido un importante incremento de sismicidad en La Palma, con 127 terremotos, el mayor de 4.3 a 33 km de profundidad. La señal de tremor ha aumentado considerablemente con respecto a los últimos días, llegando a casi duplicarse a estas horas”

    Tremor signal rising steeply on the last hours!

    • One more.
      2021/11/29 08:35:27IV

      + info
      4.8 mbLg SW VILLA DE MAZO.ILP
      2021/11/29 08:35:27
      3. 4

      + info

  17. 5.0 mbLg SW VILLA DE MAZO.ILP
    2021/11/29 08:35:27IV-V

  18. Been a lot of earthquakes on Reykjanes this past few days. Mostly they are around Krysuvik and Fagradalsfjall, on the active rift. But the quakes at Krysuvik look like they are in the rift that has all the lakes in it, not the two dry valleys with young lava. An eruption through the lake would be a big deal, could be a lot like Tarawera, or Veidivotn.

    There has also been reported inflation at Fagradalsfjall, the magma supply didnt stop at all only the vent did, it is most likely we will see more eruptions here.

    It is a bit disappointing though that Grimsvotn isnt going to erupt in tandem, most likely an eruption there will last a few days and happen maybe in a week and then we need to wait another 10 years, and another eruption on Reykjanes in the next month is not looking likely 🙁

    • Grimsvötn is robbed alot by passive rifting, without passive rifting, we may have an glacial Etna there. Still Grimsvötn is the only Icelandic Volcanic Thats constantly inflating, suggesting a stable supply there.
      Around 3000 years ago Grimsvötn used to do VEI 3 s every 2 th years according to Ice core drill ash layers near Grimsvøtn, during a period of high magma supply. But thats clearly not the case for the moment.

      Still after 2011 the caldera have become very Geothermaly active and magma accumulation have increased.
      Still I think there will be 12 years of sleep too after the next Grimsvötn eruption.

      • VEI 3 is 10-100 million m3 of tephra, 2011 was 900 million m3 of tephra, so anywhere from 9 to 90 VEI 3s. DRE of 2011 was 0.3 km3, so would be maybe 20-30 million m3 a year to get to where we are now, enough for a VEI 3. I think now Grimsvotn just has more of a defined shallow magma chamber, where before it was maybe just erupting from depth. That is maybe why it was able to have some bigger eruptions more recently, able to charge up for longer.

        The most productive volcano in Iceland in the last millennium is Hekla, which has erupted around 10 km3 of lava since 1104. Bardarbunga is close behind at 9 km3. Grimsvotn really is maybe 2 km3. Laki would push it to 1st place but it isnt clear how much that was connected to Grimsvotn directly, or if it was an eccentric eruption. That being said Veidivotn and Vatnaoldur could also be eccentric eruptions, which would put Bardarbunga at only 5 km3. Hekla is the clear winner in that case.

      • Grimsvötn is always seems to be to inflating by the GPS and seems to have an open conduit system, Is there any chance for lava lake activity If we gets a long lived eruption that forms a surtsey Island in the caldera?

        Yes seems like a few thousand years ago that Grimsvötn had No shallow magma chamber at all, the bronze age tephras are also extremely mafic in composition and confirms that. The shallow magma chamber acts as a stoorage tank for now

    • The VEI system is Only meant for pyroclastic one go eruptions in tephra.
      Like plinian or paroxymal lava fountains eruptions

      It does not apply to lava flow eruptions …

  19. No glacial flood from Grimmy yet, but the ice shelf has dropped hugely. Where is all the water going? The pressure build-up must be humongous.

    • Is it still dropping ?
      The more the subglacial lake drops the more pressure is removed from the magma chamber

      • Surely without the glacial flood, thermodynamics come into play and start creating further pressure? How hot is the meltwater. I have done a back of an envelope calculation around 600Mm3 of ice has melted.

        How much of water will be turning into vapour, that is still trapped below the ice? When do we go past the critical point?

    • The shallow magma chamber is very shallow in Grimsvötn, just little more than 2 kilometers down, the more water pressure is removed the more likley it is for eruption

      2004 eruption was triggered by pressure removal .. how many meters of water was removed back then to cause the eruption ?

  20. La palma, Drone Flyby at 13:45, lava continue moving to La Laguna and other zones.

    • The GPS located on the ice in Grims is the one in the second row – right side.

      Google translated
      Head change in Grimsvötn

      Vertical entry obtained with real-time processing from a GPS device located in Grimvötn

      Head numbers in the middle of the head over seven (lake)

      The change since 4 november is just over – 5 meters now.

    • If the water load is removed she will probaly erupt, Grimsvötn have accumulated quite alot of magma since 2011 as IMO says, removal of load on the chamber coud cause it to erupt

      Rob is it still dropping the water level?

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