Lonely Planet Writer

New Zealand village of 650 people sitting on a growing volcano

Residents of a tiny village in New Zealand received  a shock at the news that they were living and sleeping on top of a growing volcano.

Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand, is a well-known volcanic area but scientists were surprised to find a growing volcano at the other end
Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand, is a well-known volcanic area but scientists were surprised to find a growing volcano at the other end Image by Edwin Leung

Scientists discovered a magma build-up near the coastal town of Matata which they fear could be the inception of a new volcano. The good news is that they don’t believe there will be an eruption for years and years.

Sufficient magma - enough to fill 80,000 olympic stadia .
Sufficient magma – enough to fill 80,000 olympic sized swimming pools has bubbled up under the surface of the village. Image by geofiz / CC BY 2.0

However geophysicist Ian Hamling explained that in the past 66 years, sufficient magma to fill 80,000 Olympic-size swimming pools has bubbled up under the surface at the village.

The Guardian reports that a paper published last week – with Hamling as its lead author – says it is quite a surprise to find the activity near Matata, situated some 120 miles south-east of Auckland.

By using GPS data and satellite images, scientists discovered an area of land about 400 sq km (154 sq m) had risen by about 16 inches since 1950.

The author believes that the speedy uplift between 2004 and 2011 was responsible for thousands of mini earthquakes and not tectonic shifts as was originally thought.

The magma stayed about six miles (10km) below the surface.

Because of the depth, he didn’t foresee a volcano developing there within his lifetime.

The research scientists was hopeful with further study of developing a warning system for earthquakes in the area.

He said the quakes were probably triggered by magma stressing and breaking rock.

With more than half of the study concentrating on offshore activity, the team had to draw inference from what was happening on land to apply to underwater changes.

Volcanologist with Geoscience Australia, Victoria Miller, said the location was of interest due to the fact that it was outside an active volcanic area.