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ABC News reported that scientists raised the volcano alert to level one (minor volcanic unrest) after they detected 700 small earthquakes.
GeoNet issued a statement warning of the increased activity while also notifying that the scale consists of six levels and doesn't necessarily occur in sequence.
This is the first time GeoNet has raised the Taupo volcano to be above zero, which previously erupted 1,800 years ago, causing the world’s largest earthquake in 5,000 years.
The Volcanic Alert Level for Taupō Volcano has been raised to Volcanic Alert Level 1 (minor volcanic unrest). This minor unrest is causing the ongoing earthquakes & ground deformation at the volcano. Read our bulletin with all of the information here: https://t.co/T9yTR3aF32 pic.twitter.com/FD31y9iYqD— GeoNet (@geonet) September 20, 2022
GeoNet warned that the tremors could continue in the coming weeks and months.
It stated: “While some of the earthquakes may be felt in areas around Lake Taupo, the deformation is currently only detectable by our sensitive monitoring instruments. GNS Science continues to actively monitor the volcano.”
The press release also shared that the increasing tremors could also be elicited by the volcano's magmatism.
It continued: “We interpret the ground uplift and earthquake activity to be caused by the movement of magma and the hydrothermal fluids inside the volcano.
“We have also sampled springs and gas vents around the lake for changes in chemistry that may be related to the earthquake and ground uplift.”
Duty volcanologist Steven Sherburn told Stuff that while this is the first time the alert level has been raised to one, it’s not the first volcanic unrest (ground movements) detected at Taupo.
“There has been an increase in earthquakes and deformation (ground movement) at Taupo since May 2022, indicating volcanic unrest is occurring,” he said.
GeoNet stated that there had been 17 incidents of unrest at Taupo in the past 150 years.
Sherburn said: “Several of these were more severe than what we are currently observing at Taupo.”
He shared that liquefaction could occur if the earthquakes become more significant.
He added: “The Volcanic Alert level reflects the current level of volcanic unrest or activity and is not a forecast of future activity.
“While Volcanic Alert level one is mostly associated with environmental hazards, potential for eruption hazards also exists
New Zealand lies at the edge of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates and it is known to frequent many earthquakes.
According to GeoNet there are around 20,000 earthquakes in and around the country each year.
But the last deadliest earthquake was in 2019, when White Island, also known as the Whakaari volcano, suddenly erupted, killing 22 and severely injuring 25 people.