Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 3, pp 617–640 | Cite as

Reconstructing the largest explosive eruptions of Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand: lithostratigraphic tools to understand subplinian–plinian eruptions at andesitic volcanoes

  • Natalia Pardo
  • Shane J. Cronin
  • Alan S. Palmer
  • Karoly Németh
Research Article


We analysed the tephra record of Mt. Ruapehu for the period 27,097 ± 957 to ~10,000 cal. years BP to determine the largest-scale explosive eruptions expected from the most active New Zealand andesitic volcano. From the lithostratigraphic analysis, a systematic change in the explosive behaviour is identified from older deposits suggesting dry magmatic eruptions and steady eruptive columns, characterised by frothy to expanded pumice fabrics, to younger deposits that are products of unsteady conditions and collapsing columns, characterised by microvesicular, fibrous, and colour-banded pumice fabrics. The end-members were separated by eruptions with steady columns linked to water–magma interaction and highly unstable conduit walls. Dry magmatic eruptions producing steady plinian columns were most common between 27,097 ± 957 and shortly after 13,635 + 165 cal. years BP. Following this time, activity continued with eruptions that produced dominantly oscillating unsteady columns, which engendered pyroclastic density currents, until ~10 ka when there was an abrupt transition at Mt. Ruapehu since which eruptions have been an order of magnitude lower in intensity and volume. These data demonstrate long-period transitions in eruption behaviour at an andesitic stratovolcano, which is critical to understand if realistic time-variable hazard forecasts are to be developed.


Andesitic tephras Explosive volcanism Eruptive unit Fallouts Lithofacies Lithofacies association Tephrostratigraphy 



This study was financed by the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology Grant MAUX0401, “Living with Volcanic Risk” to SJC. We are also grateful for the support of the Tongariro Natural History Society Memorial Award to NP. We thank H. Keys, J. Johnson (Department of Conservation), and the Range Control staff of the NZ National Army camp at Waiouru for allowing access to the Tongariro National park and Army land. We also thank M. Brenna, G. Lube, A. Moebis, E. Phillips, J. Procter, and T. Wang for their support in the field; and V. Neall, B. Stewart, and I. Smith for the helpful discussion and comments. Exhaustive reviews by Drs. C. Siebe and G. Giordano were extremely useful and greatly improved the quality of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natalia Pardo
    • 1
  • Shane J. Cronin
    • 1
  • Alan S. Palmer
    • 1
  • Karoly Németh
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Natural ResourcesMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

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