Blue-sky eruptions, do they exist? : implications for monitoring New Zealand's volcanoes.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The term “blue-sky eruption” (BSE) can be used to describe eruptions which are unexpected or have no detected precursory activity. Case study analyses indicate that they have a diverse range of characteristics and magnitudes, providing both direct and indirect hazards and occur in both under-developed and developed countries. BSEs can be a result of physical triggers (e.g. the lack of physically detectable precursors or a lack of understanding of the eruption model of the volcano), social triggers (such as an inadequate monitoring network), or a combination of the two. As the science of eruption forecasting is still relatively young, and the variations between individual volcanoes and individual eruptions are so great, there is no effective general model and none should be applied in the absence of a site-specific model. Similarly, as methods vary between monitoring agencies, there are no monitoring benchmarks for effective BSE forecasting. However a combination of seismic and gas emission monitoring may be the most effective. The United States began a hazard and monitoring review of their volcanoes in 2005. While the general principles of their review would be beneficial in a monitoring review of New Zealand’s volcanoes, differences in styles of volcanism, geographic setting and activity levels mean changes would need to be review to fully appreciate the risk posed by New Zealand’s volcanoes. Similarly, the monitoring benchmarks provided in the U.S. review may not be fully applicable in New Zealand. While advances in technology may ultimately allow the effective forecasting of some BSEs, the immediate threat posed by unexpected eruptions means that effective management and mitigation measures may be the only tools currently at our disposal to reduce the risks from BSEs.