NZ scientists invent new volcano alert system

New Zealand scientists have invented a new volcano alert system that they say could have provided warning ahead of last year’s White Island disaster.

Twenty-one people died when the country’s most active volcano, also called Whakaari, suddenly erupted last December with tourists on it, the BBC reported.

The new system uses machine learning algorithms to analyse real-time data to predict future eruptions.

One of the scientists involved in the project, Shane Cronin from the University of Auckland, told the BBC on Monday that the current system had been “too slow to provide warnings for people (on) the island.”

“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,” he said.

“The way we warn for volcanoes was good enough 10 years ago but it’s not actually moving with the times.”

According to Cronin, research on the new system had already begun before the White Island eruption, but “when the eruption happened it really accelerated us. We were like – we’ve really got to work on this now”.

Despite some seismic activity in the weeks prior to the White Island explosion the sudden and dramatic nature of the eruption took everyone, including authorities, by surprise.