New Zealand geyser erupts

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

A sur­prise geyser shot wa­ter high into the air from New Zealand’s Lake Ro­torua early yes­ter­day morn­ing, pan­ick­ing some lo­cal res­i­dents.

The erup­tions at about 4:30am lo­cal time woke peo­ple liv­ing in Ohine­mutu, on New Zealand’s North Is­land.

Re­ports said the wa­ter reached heights of be­tween seven and 30m. The area is known for geother­mal ac­tiv­ity, but the ex­act lo­ca­tion and mag­ni­tude of the geyser are un­usual.

Lo­cals re­ported hear­ing a series of loud thuds, fol­lowed by a spray­ing sound.

In a video on Face­book, Ohine­mutu res­i­dent Lani Kere­opa said she ini­tially saw noth­ing un­usual from her win­dow “and then an­other one hap­pened and I saw wa­ter spray­ing up out of the lake”.

“I pan­icked, ran down­stairs to wake ev­ery­body up to say ‘Get out of the house, get out of the pa [set­tle­ment], the vil­lage is erupt­ing’.” Brad Scott, a vol­ca­nol­o­gist with earth sci­ence or­gan­i­sa­tion GNS Sci­ence, said: “The event to­day was a hy­dro­ther­mal erup­tion, driven by steam from shal­low depth in the geother­mal sys­tem.”

“They oc­cur when too much steam is trapped at shal­low depths” of five to 15m, he added. “The pres­sure grows to ex­ceed the strength and weight of the rocks above it. Once enough pres­sure ex­ists, you get lift-off.” Is it com­mon? The last such event in a sim­i­lar spot was in the 1960s, and the last sig­nif­i­cant erup­tions nearby about a kilo­me­tre away - were in 2000 and 2001, said Mr Scott.

But the wider area is known for geother­mal ac­tiv­ity, draw­ing tourists to what Visit Ro­torua de­scribes as “its spout­ing gey­sers, bub­bling mud pools and colour­ful sin­ter ter­races”.

“Ever since we have had writ­ten records there have been ac­counts of th­ese steam-driven

erup­tions oc­cur­ring. To­day’s event was sim­i­lar to many in the past. It wasn’t very large as th­ese events go,” Mr Scott said, not­ing that when lo­cals drilled for steam decades ago, there were two or three such events a year.

One geyser in the re­gion did how­ever spurt back to life for the first time in decades last year. Should peo­ple be wor­ried? Ro­torua Lakes Coun­cil Geother­mal In­spec­tor Peter Brown­bridge told Ra­dio New Zealand it was akin to a cap be­ing blown off a shaken bot­tle of fizzy drink.

“It must have been quite pow­er­ful to throw up a big col­umn of wa­ter as it did, but it’s noth­ing for peo­ple to be con­cerned about,” he said.

It is thought that while erup­tions may present a small risk to peo­ple on the lake, lo­cal res­i­dents are not in sig­nif­i­cant dan­ger.

Is it con­nected to the Kaik­oura earth­quake?

Just af­ter mid­night on 14 Novem­ber, the town of Kaik­oura, in the north of New Zealand’s South Is­land, was hit by a dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake that has left it still largely cut off.

But while both quakes and gey­sers are con­nected to tec­tonic ac­tiv­ity, the tim­ing is likely to be noth­ing more than co­in­ci­dence.

“We can­not say they are not re­lated. How­ever it is dif­fi­cult to think of a mech­a­nism that would cause this, two weeks af­ter the large earth­quake,” said Brad Scott.

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