Anyone planning a New Zealand trip to reenact Frodo’s journey in Lord Of The Rings might have to put that idea on hold.
The alert level for Mount Ruapehu, in New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park, has been raised after the mountain’s crater lake temperature almost doubled in just a few weeks.
Earthquake and monitoring service GNS Science says recent visits to the volcano have shown an increase in the output of volcanic gas, sparking concerns that an eruption is imminent.
A satellite image of Mount Ruapehu before the September 2007 eruption shows lahar (mud and debris) that flowed down the volcano [Image: NASA]
The volcano, part of the backdrop for Mordor in the Peter Jackson-directed trilogy, last erupted in September 2007.
“There are more signs of life at the volcano,” said volcanologist Brad Scott. "Recent visits to the volcano have confirmed an increase in the output of volcanic gas."
Contained deep within the Earth, volcanos are vents where molten rock, debris, and gases from the planet's interior are emitted.
When thick magma and gas build up under the surface, volcanoes expel lava, rocks and ash into the air. The mountain-like mounds that we associate with volcanoes are what remains after material spewed during eruptions has hardened around the vent.
A large eruption can be extremely dangerous for people living near a volcano. Flows of searing lava can reach 1,250 degrees or more, burning everything in its path, including humans and entire towns. Ash and toxic gases can cause lung damage and other problems.
It’s estimated that more than 260,000 people have died in the past 300 years from volcanic eruptions and their aftermath.
About 1,900 volcanoes on Earth are considered active, meaning they show some level of activity and are likely to explode again. Many other volcanoes are dormant, showing no current signs of exploding but likely to become active at some point in the future. Others are considered extinct.