Facebook Twitter

New Zealand has a new volcano alert system that could have warned against deadly eruption

Alert system may have warned of recent White Island eruption sooner

SHARE New Zealand has a new volcano alert system that could have warned against deadly eruption
In this Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, plumes of steam rise above White Island off the coast of Whakatane, New Zealand.

In this Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, plumes of steam rise above White Island off the coast of Whakatane, New Zealand.

Mark Baker, Associated Press

Scientists in New Zealand have developed a new alert systemthat could have provided warnings ahead of the White Island eruption, which killed more than a dozen people in 2019, BBC News reports.

New Zealand’s new system relies on a machine learning approach and algorithms to review real-time data about volcano eruptions.

The research — which was published in Nature Communications — said it could have saved 21 people from dying during the White Island eruption of volcano Whakaari in December 2019. 

Shane Cronin from the University of Auckland, told BBC News that the current warning system has acted “too slow to provide warnings for people (on) the island.”

He said: “The current (alert system) collects data in real-time but what tends to happen is that this information gets assessed by a panel and they have an expert process ... this all takes a while. The way we warn for volcanoes was good enough 10 years ago but it’s not actually moving with the times.”

The new systems “shows patterns of seismic activity before an eruption that make advance warning possible,” Cronin and University of Auckland academics David Dempsey told The Guardian.

“Had our system been in place (on Whakaari last year) it would have raised the alert 16 hours before the volcano’s deadly eruption,” they said.

Of course, the data isn’t full-proof, and there would likely be some mistakes, researchers told The Guardian. But it would provide warnings as early as possible, which could potentially save lives.

“The trade-off is that the alerts, if acted upon, would keep the island off-limits to visitors for about one month each year,” they said.