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Thread: 'Good possibility' of new Auckland volcano

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    Default 'Good possibility' of new Auckland volcano

    'Good possibility' of new Auckland volcano
    Last updated 05:00 24/04/2010

    There's a "good possibility" than a volcano will burst through the streets of Auckland in the next few hundred years.

    The city is already studded with at least 50 volcanoes - the last, Rangitoto Island, emerged in the Haraki Gulf about 700 years ago.

    Auckland University geologist Phil Shane says "a new little one pops up" in Auckland every 1000 years, "so you could have an eruption in our lifetime".

    Auckland is built on a "volcanic field", Dr Shane told AAP.

    "Rather than a new (volcano) bursting through the old eroded remains of an ancient one, often they pop up in a new place."

    Auckland's bustling main strip, Queen Street, would be a "candidate", he said.

    "A place like Queen Street wouldn't be out of the question.

    "Equally, it could happen out in the harbour or somewhere else.

    "Unfortunately, it's very hard to forecast (when) something like this is going to happen unless we're only ... like weeks or months away from it happening," Dr Shane said.

    New Zealand has one of the most dynamic land masses in the world.

    Over 20 million years ago the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates began colliding under the earth's surface - the pair continuing to push about 40 millimetres closer every year, creating uplift, mountains and hot magma in New Zealand.

    The plates' boundary runs through the centre of the country, leading to the formation of at least 100 volcanoes, three of which are active in the central part of the North Island.

    In the mid-1990s eruptions from the largest, Mt Ruapehu, blanketed areas 300km away with acidic ash.

    Ash plumes reached 10,000 metres into the air, and some flights out of Auckland airport were grounded.

    It did not compare to the chaos seen this month after Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano blew, however.

    The eruption triggered the worst disruption to aviation since World War 2, paralysing the skies above Europe for almost a week.

    Dr Shane said the volcanic ash produced by the Icelandic volcano was extreme because the magma emerged beneath large glaciers.

    "As soon as that hot rock gets in contact with the ice, it melts it.

    "The water helps chill the magma and that makes it fragment into tiny little pieces so you get all this big production of ash."

    He said the environment in New Zealand did not allow for this kind of reaction, but an eruption in Auckland would present its own problems.

    Hundreds of thousands of people would be forced to flee the city.

    "Your first question is how do you move them ... but also where would they go? Where would 200,000 people go?" Dr Shane said.

    "Then you've got the problem of this volcano erupting and you could still sort of, within reason work and live around there, but it could come up right through where there are gas lines and electricity and water utilities.

    "Even if it doesn't directly kill people, just imagine all that disruption that could go on for most of a year and then, even once it's stopped, you have to rebuild."

    "So (there would be) big disruptions."

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    Right that's decided me. Gotta be Wellington.

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