Massey warning system picks eruption

The University's volcanic response group is working with the Department of Conservation to find out why its warning system did not pick up Mt Ruapehu's latest eruption but the University's equipment did.

Dr Shane Cronin, of the Institute of Natural Resources, says the cause may be because the event was eruption-related.

"It looks as if the flows were so short-lived they weren't recorded on the DoC warning system.

"What we're trying to figure out is why they weren't picked up there and make some recommendations to DoC about how they update their system to catch things like this in the future."

Dr Cronin and his students drove to the Central Plateau as soon as he heard about the eruption and spent a night camped by a lahar monitoring station at the base of Mt Ruapehu. They have since been back to the mountain several times and now analysing samples taken from across the mountain and data from monitoring instruments.

The instruments were purchased in December as part of a $720,000 Marsden Fund project led by Dr Cronin and Dr Vern Manville from the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences.

"Our efforts included surveying precisely the levels of the lahars down the Whangaehu channel. The lahar deposits are an unusual mix of snow, mud and rock - like in 1995.

"There were at least three flows down the valley and our instruments installed for the Marsden Fund research project seem all to have worked in capturing the flows as they passed."

He says the Whangaehu lahars were probably in total only about 15 per cent of the size of the March 18 lahar from the crater lake and were more or less confined to the upper mountain.

Dr Cronin says the technique used to gather information about the internal dynamics of the lahar, using seismometers, will be used to enhance predictive models being developed by the group.

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