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New Zealand's Mount Ruapehu shows increased volcanic activity

May 2 (UPI) -- The temperature at New Zealand's crater lake Te Wai a-moe has risen about 35 degrees Fahrenheit over the past three days, highlighting continued unrest on Mount Ruapehu and concerning experts about its ongoing volcanic tremors, experts said Monday.

Geoff Kilgour said Mount Ruapehu has shown its strongest volcanic activity "in two decades" with volcanic alert levels remaining at 2. Volcano eruptions are much more likely at Level 2 in than Level 1.

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"Over the last week, the level of volcanic tremor has varied, with bursts of strong tremor interspersed by short, periods of weaker tremor," Kilgour said, according to the New Zealand Herald.

"This represents a change in character in the tremor, and the driving processes remain unclear."

Staffers from GNS Science, New Zealand's leading geoscience and isotope research service, have noticed an increased frequency of aerial gas measurements in sampling and a gas measurement flight last week.

"Mount Ruapehu is an active volcano and has the potential to erupt with little or no warning when in a state of elevated volcanic unrest," Kilgour said. "Volcanic Alert Level 2 indicates the primary hazards are those expected during volcanic unrest; steam discharge, volcanic gas, earthquakes, landslides and hydrothermal activity."

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Kilgour said the chances for a prolonged eruptive episode or a larger eruption, similar to an episode in 1995-96, though, is unlikely.

"Such an eruption would most likely only follow a sequence of smaller eruptions," Kilgour said.

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