Hotspot volcanoes

Recent earthquakes in Lake Taupō in New Zealand indicate active volcanoes

The tiny sign that New Zealand’s supervolcano is active – and what it could mean for the island nation

  • Several small earthquakes have been recorded in Lake Taupō in New Zealand
  • Geonet has reported a total of 84 tremors in the region over the past three weeks
  • Earthquakes in the area prove that the Taupō volcano is still active

A series of small earthquakes have been reported at Lake Taupō in New Zealand, raising concerns about signs of volcanic unrest in the area.

Geonet, an agency that operates a geohazard monitoring system for New Zealand, has recorded 84 small earthquakes in the past two to three weeks.

The earthquakes were all minor, with only two exceeding magnitude 3, which is equivalent to feeling slight vibrations and possibly seeing objects inside shake.

Taupō volcano is proven to be active as small earthquakes, up and down ground movements, and changes in geothermal fields are indicators of volcanic unrest.

A series of small earthquakes have been reported at Lake Taupō in New Zealand, raising concerns about signs of volcanic unrest in the area. (Photo: map of the region with dots representing the tremors)

Geonet, a geohazard monitoring agency in New Zealand, has recorded 84 earthquakes in the past two to three weeks at Lake Taup¿ (pictured)

Geonet, a geohazard monitoring agency in New Zealand, recorded 84 earthquakes in the past two to three weeks at Lake Taupō (pictured)

The most recent earthquake swarm in the Lake Taupō area began on April 28.

Geonet measured earthquakes at depths between 7 and 16 kilometers and less than 15 kilometers.

Earthquakes in the region are frequent and several are recorded each year.

“The largest have lasted for weeks or even months and can include several hundred earthquakes,” Geonet said.

The recent series of earthquakes fall into two groups, one located in the middle of the lake and the other along the eastern shore.

Geonet says the earthquakes could be “related to active faulting in the TVZ and volcanic processes in caldera volcanoes like Taupō and Okataina.”

The tremors are similar to a swarm recorded in 2019, which the agency conducted a study on.

They noted in the study that the earthquakes were “related to the margins of the hot mush zone below the volcano and are signs that the Taupō volcano is active.”

“Variations in background unrest level are common for caldera volcanoes like Taupō.”

There have been over 4,200 earthquakes in the region over the past 10 years and 17 episodes of volcanic unrest over the past 140 years.

Earthquakes have also been recorded in the north, where there are several more active volcanoes.

Taup¿ is a “supervolcano” that has seen some of the most violent volcanic eruptions on the planet, with the last eruption taking place 1,800 years ago.  (Photo: Artist's impression of a new eruption column during the Oruanui eruption of Taup¿ volcano in 26,500 BCE)

Taupō is a “supervolcano” that has seen some of the most violent volcanic eruptions on the planet, with the last eruption occurring 1,800 years ago. (Photo: Artist’s impression of a new eruption column during the Oruanui eruption of Taupō volcano in 26,500 BCE)

One of the volcanoes in the Taup Volcanic Zone is Whakaari (pictured), which erupted in December 2019, killing 22 people and injuring 25.

One of the volcanoes located in the Taupō Volcanic Zone is Whakaari (pictured), which erupted in December 2019, killing 22 people and injuring 25.

Taupō is a “supervolcano” that has seen some of the most violent volcanic eruptions on the planet, with the last eruption occurring 1,800 years ago.

There have been 29 eruptions at Taupō over the past 30,000 years.

Of those 29, three eruptions were very large and the others were much smaller, according to Geonet.

Taupō lies on the Taupō Volcanic Zone, which encompasses several volcanic centers on New Zealand’s North Island.

White Island is one of the volcanoes located in the Taupō Volcanic Zone and is the last volcano in the zone to erupt in 2019.

The volcano, also known as Whakaari, erupted explosively on December 9, 2019, killing 22 people – including 14 Australians – and injuring 25.

Dozens of others were seriously injured. The dead and injured were tourists and their guides visiting the volcano.

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