Mt Tongariro: Poor weather stops experts checking gas

Poor weather is preventing volcano experts from flying over Mt Tongariro to check gas levels.

Volcanologists were scheduled to conduct an aerial observation today to gather information about how much gas is being emitted by the volcano, but a thunderstorm has left low cloud over the area and the wrong wind direction have stopped it from going ahead.

They had planned to circle the plume taking measurements with gas sensors, to gather readings about sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide levels, GNS Science duty volcanologist Nico Fournier said.

The information could give clues about any changes to the volcano.

"At the moment there's a north west wind so the plume is going back into the mountain. It's not looking very promising I'm afraid."

On Wednesday thick grey smoke, gas and ash spewed 4km into the sky from Te Maari vent on the western side of the mountain during an unexpected eruption just before 1.30pm.

It is the same place where Tongariro erupted in August, for the first time in more than a century.

There had been no change in activity from the volcano overnight.

"That being said, Tongariro can still erupt at any time, essentially with little or no warning", with the volcano remaining in a state of unrest, said Mr Fournier.

A 3km exclusion zone has been set up around Mt Tongariro and The Department of Conservation (DoC) closed its tracks within a 3km radius of the crater.

Flights were also cancelled and a Civil Defence alert put out on Wednesday.

Taupo's mayor Rick Cooper has criticised the response, calling it an overreaction and saying small eruptions are a fact of life with live volcanos.

"We have to live and learn to live with a live volcano. She does, from time to time, the beautiful woman, stamp her feet. Whilst we need to take all precautions we should not overreact," he told Newstalk ZB.

However, Mr Cooper said it was good to have the area's beauty promoted on the world stage.

DoC spokesman Bhrent Guys said staff would remain posted at the main entrances to the national park on the central plateau tomorrow to stop curious spectators getting too close and the Tongariro Crossing would remain closed for at least two more days. - apnz


- Rotorua Daily Post

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