Lightning storm over White Island

By Genevieve Helliwell


When flashes of light exploded over the Bay of Plenty last night, many locals thought White Island was erupting.

But volcano experts have confirmed last night's light show was caused by an electrical storm near the coastal volcano.

GNS Science received a number of calls from concerned members of the public when bright lights flashed over the coast about 7pm last night.

GNS Science duty volcanologist Nico Fournier said the electrical storm caused ``quite a lot of interest''.

``People [were] reporting they thought they saw an ash plume or lightning or lights around White Island. They thought it was the volcano erupting,'' he said.

``We checked the monitoring equipment and we didn't record anything unusual last night. We've got eyes and ears on the volcano with our webcams and an acoustic sounds recording device that records any booms or explosions and nothing happened last night out there, nothing at all.''

Mr Fournier said an electrical storm with thunder and lightning was recorded roughly 50km north-east of the island.

``[Last night] when people looked out toward White Island from the Bay of Plenty they would have seen dark clouds and the lightning striking just beyond White Island and thought it was coming from the island.''

``We had people in the field yesterday getting sets of data, we're out there 24-7 and we're keeping a pretty close eye on it.''

``There's a high level of concern at the moment and it's understandable. People are quite sensitive in relation to any volcano activity at the moment.''

Mr Fournier encouraged members of the public to phone GNS Science and report any potential volcanic activity.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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