Lahar-Triggering Mechanisms and Hazard at Ruapehu Volcano, New Zealand
Source: Natural Hazards, Volume 31, Number 1, January 2004 , pp. 85-109(25)
Abstract:Late Holocene volcanic activity at Ruapehu has been characterized by the generation of small (<105 m3) to very large (>107 m3) lahars and repeated, small to medium (VEI 1-3) tephra-producing eruptions. The Onetapu Formation groups all lahar deposits that accumulated during the last 2,000 years on the southeastern Ruapehu ring plain. The andesitic tephras are grouped within the Tufa Trig Formation and are intercalated within the laharic sequence. By correlating these two formations with new radiocarbon ages obtained on interbedded paleosols, we reconstruct a detailed volcanic history of Ruapehu for this period.
Clast assemblages identified in the laharic sequences record the lithologies of synchronous tephras and rocks within the source region. These assemblages suggest a strong genetic link between the development of Crater Lake, the variation in eruptive styles, and the production of lahars.
Lahar-triggering mechanisms include: (1) flank collapse of hydrothermally altered and unstable portions of the cone; (2) phreatic and phreatomagmatic eruptions favoring the generation of snow-rich slurries and hyperconcentrated stream flows; (3) sudden Crater Lake rim collapse, releasing large amounts of water inducing debris flows; and (4) eruptions that generate large volumes of tephra on snow-covered slopes, later remobilized by heavy rain.
Two major lahars in the Onetapu sequence had a volume ≥ 4 × 107 m3, roughly 1 to 2 orders of magnitude larger than the 1953 event leading to the Tangiwai disaster (151 casualties). One of these lahars crossed over a low interfluve currently separating the Whangaehu River from a stream feeding the Tongariro River, sometime since peat accumulated between AD 1400 and AD 1660. A repetition of such a large-scale event would have devastating consequences on the infrastructure, economy and environment within the distal areas of the two catchments. The 1995–1996 eruptions were a timely reminder of the hazards posed by the volcano.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Author for correspondence: Soil and Earth Sciences, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 5301, New Zealand, Email: J.A.Lecontre@massey.ac.nz 2: Natural Resources Engineering/Environmental Management and Design Division, Lincoln University, PO Box 84, Canterbury, New Zealand 3: Soil and Earth Sciences, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 5301, New Zealand 4: Soil and Earth Sciences, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 5301, New Zealand Current Address: GEOMAR Forschungszentrum fuer marine Geowissenschaften, Abt. Vulkanologie und Petrologie, Wischhofstrasse 1-3, D-24148 Kiel, Germany
Publication date: 2004-01-01