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Low levels of volcanic activity at White Island

Published: 5:28AM Friday August 10, 2012 Source: ONE News

Volcanic activity at White Island has remained at similar levels to yesterday.

The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) says the volcanic tremor remains at low levels but a weak ash and steam plume is still being emitted.

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Duty volcanologist, Craig Miller, says that the volcanic alert level remains unchanged.

White Island, which lies 48 kilometres off the Bay of Plenty coast, was raised to a Volcanic Alert Level 2 after a surveillance camera captured a small eruption from its crater on Sunday.

The amount of ash emission varies over time and the plume is rising to only a few hundred metres above the island.

However, ash emissions have drifted as far as Papamoa, near Tauranga's coastline, coating cars and houses.

"It is extremely fine, but it's visible on cars," Carol Congalton told ONE News.

GNS says that reports of lightning from the island last night were incorrect. But volcanologists have confirmed that there was a lightning storm around 50km to the north of White Island which may have appeared as originating from the volcano when observed from the mainland.

Satellite observations show that any ash in the atmosphere was an insufficient amount to cause lightning.

Visitors to White Island are now at the highest level of risk since the end of the 2001 eruptions.

The Aviation Colour Code remains at orange, meaning the volcano is "exhibiting heightened unrest".

Additional hazards to visitors to the island now include the health effects of volcanic ash and acid gas exposure, including respiratory issues, skin and eye sensitivity to acid gases.

GNS visited the island, which is New Zealand's most active cone volcano, yesterday morning and confirmed it was still erupting.

"A relatively new vent seems to have formed at the back of the crater lake and it's a very open vent and volcanic ash has been emitted from that," GNS scientist Brad Scott said.

GNS advises a high level of caution should be taken, if visiting the island.