Volcano scoring system updated

06:47, Jun 30 2014

A new scoring system will make it easier to keep tabs on New Zealand’s volcanic activity from tomorrow. 

The Volcanic Alert Level system, used by GNS Science and GeoNet to communicate volcanic activity, has been simplified to provide better guidance in the event of volcanic unrest, GNS Science said.

“The old system was used successfully through many eruptions, but user groups told us that it was too complex,” GNS volcano information specialist Brad Scott said. 

The six-stage system was changing to better align with the needs of organisations such as the civil defence and emergency management sector, tourism operators, and civil aviation, as well as the public and the media, he said.

The new system was developed as part of a PhD research project at Massey University, with input from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and other user groups. 

GNS social science researcher Sally Potter said it would improve communication of scientific information. 


“During my research the people who use the alert level system told me that having a simple volcanic alert level system is really important to them,” she said.

“So we combined the two existing systems into one new system for all of New Zealand’s volcanoes, and simplified the wording.

“We also included information on the most likely hazards that will be seen at each alert level. This is important information for our emergency management partners and communities affected by the volcanoes.”   

She said the former system was too complex, plus developments in volcano monitoring over the past 20 years created an opportunity for a more accurate alerting system, especially in defining lower levels of activity. 

The overall number of levels in the new system would remain unchanged, from 0 (no volcanic unrest) to 5 (major volcanic eruption). No changes have been made to the international aviation colour code system. 

Volcanologists first developed the alert system in 1994. It was revised before the Ruapehu eruptions in 1995 and this is its third update. 


White Island - January 2014

Papakura Geyser - October 2013

Mt Tongariro - August 2013

Ruapehu - May 2013