Researchers from the University of Canterbury are unleashing volcanic ballistics onto Kiwi roofs in an effort to help Aucklanders understand and manage their volcanic hazards.
“Auckland sits on an active volcanic field with 53 known volcanic centres and it is likely there will be an eruption in the future – we just aren’t sure when or where,” explained Professor Thomas Wilson from the university’s School of Earth and Environment.
“Our role as researchers is to put that risk in context and understand what the likely impacts are to help our partners in the public sector refine planning and decision-making around any potential future event.”
Researching aspects of volcanic activity
Professor Wilson and his team have been researching a variety of aspects of volcanic activity, simulating what may happen to buildings exposed to a future eruption of what is known as the Auckland Volcanic Field.
The research includes PhD student Nicole Allen firing volcanic rocks at high velocity onto typical kiwi roof designs, as well as loading the roofs with tonnes of volcanic ash.
“By testing the strength of the roofs, we can see what damage may be sustained by buildings, which in turn can help us understand how many homes could be damaged in eruptions and what we could do to protect them,” said Allen.
Determine how much protection required
“This may also help inform how much protection New Zealand buildings provide to people caught in an erupting volcano, and if they can provide a useful place to shelter.”
The projects of Professor Wilson’s team are part of the larger DEVORA research programme. DEVORA stands for Determining Volcanic Risk in Auckland and represents a multidisciplinary team of scientists from around the world studying Auckland volcanoes in partnership with the emergency management and insurance sectors.
Many Aucklanders may not be aware that the cones scattered around the city landscape are part of the potentially active Auckland Volcanic Field. The last eruption in the area was Rangitoto around 600 years ago, which in volcanic terms is considered fairly recent.
Auckland’s lakes and cones are the result
Unlike the big volcanoes in the central North Island, the Auckland field triggers smaller eruptions in new locations, which has created the cones and some lakes that are seen around the city.
Professor Wilson said that the chance of a volcanic eruption in Auckland is roughly between 5 and 15 percent within a person’s lifetime.
“But if it did happen, the impacts would be so large that it is well worth the emphasis we are putting on planning for potential evacuations, insurance exposure, and critical infrastructure resilience with our partners in the public sector”.