Taupo, New Zealand

Location: 38.8S, 176.0E
Elevation: 2,493 feet (760 m)


Space Shuttle photo STS056-0098-0081. Egmont (bottom left), Ruapehu (snow-capped, center), Lake Taupo (upper left), and Hawke Bay (top right).


Major structures, lava types, and vent locations at the Rotorua and Okataina volcanic centers within the northern Taupo Volcanic Zone. Simplified from Cole (1990) after Cole (1986).

Taupo caldera is a broad depression mostly filled by Lake Taupo. The volcanic center is associated with violent explosive eruptions and has few effusive lava domes. Volcanic deposits indicate lakes are common in the caldera. Both the Oruanui (26,500 years ago) and the Taupo (186 A.D.) ignimbrites erupted trough lakes.


Area covered by the Taupo ignimbrite (shown in gray). The ignimbrite extends in all direction from Lake Taupo for about 80 km and covers and area of 20,000 square km. Simplified from Wilson (1985).

The AD 186 eruption at Taupo is considered to be the most violent and explosive known. About 9 cubic km of pumice was erupted and eruption column heights reached 45-50 km (about twice the height of Vesuvius 79 AD). Ash was distributed over an extremely large area. 50 km downwind the deposit is 1 m thick. At 100 km it is more than 25 cm thick and pumice clasts are up to 3 cm in diameter (compared to 1 cm for Vesuvius 79 AD). Walker (1980) described the eruption as ultraplinian.

New Zealand was not inhabited at the time of the eruption.


Distribution of ash deposits from the Taupo eruption. Isopachs (lines were deposit has a constant thickness) are in cm. From Wilson and Walker (1985).

Additional information is available from the Global Volcanism Program.


Sources of Information:

Hackett, W.R., and Houghton, B.F., 1986, Active composite volcanoes of Taupo volcanic zone (Tour Guide C4): New Zealand Geol. Survey Rec, 11, p. 61-114.

Walker, G.P.L., 1981, The ground layer of the Taupo ignimbrite: a striking example of sedimentation from a pyroclastic flow: Jour. Volc. Geotherm. Research, v. 10, p. 1-12.

Walker G.P.L., 1980, The Taupo pumice: product of the most powerful known (ultraplinian) eruption?: Jour. Volc. Geotherm. Research, v. 8, p. 69-94.

Wilson, C.J.N., 1985. The Taupo eruption, New Zealand II. The Taupo ignimbrite. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A 314, 229-310.

Wilson, C.J.N., 1993, Stratigraphy, chronology, styles, and dynamics of late Quaternary eruptions from Taupo volcano, New Zealand: Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. London, Ser. A., v. 343, p. 205-306.

Wilson, C.J.N., and Walker G.P.L., 1985, The Taupo eruption, New Zealand. General aspects: Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. London, Ser. A., v. 314, p. 199-228.

Wilson, C.J.N., Ambraseys, N.N., Bradley, J., and Walker G.P.L., 1980, A new date for the Taupo eruption, New Zealand: Nature, v. 288, p. 252-253.

Wilson, C.J.N., Rogan, A.M., Smith, I.E.M., Northey, D.J., Nairn, I.A., and Houghton, B.F., Caldera volcanoes of the Taupo volcanic zone, New Zealand: Jour. Geophysical Research, v. 89, p. 8,463-8,484.



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