Volcanic eruption in Auckland?! Investigating when, where, what, and how we prepare, react, and recover


By Elaine Smid, Sophia Tsang, and Kate Lewis Kenedi


DEVORA Annual Forum

The DEtermining VOlcanic Risk in Auckland (DEVORA) research programme ( is one of many Hazard Hub programmes. The DEVORA team aims to improve volcanic hazard and risk assessment in Auckland; we study both proximal (Auckland Volcanic Field (AVF)) and distal (mainly the Taupo Volcanic Zone) volcanic hazards that could affect Auckland’s people, infrastructure, and economy. The DEVORA research programme recently held two exciting events on the University of Auckland campus.


DEVORA annual forum – lots of mingling, meeting, and greeting

The 9th annual DEVORA research forum took place on 10 November, when researchers presented findings from recent and ongoing studies. These studies range from examinations of past volcanic events in Auckland to developing tools to help prepare for future eruptions. The aim of the DEVORA forum is two-fold: 1) connect the science and researchers with the people who are or will be using the research findings, so all parties obtain valuable feedback as to the most useful ways forward; and 2) allow our students to hone their presentation and networking skills in a supportive, interactive environment. The forum has a strong focus on student research, and many of the presentations this year came from University of Auckland School of Environment students, ranging from Honours to post-doctoral scholars.


Valerie van den Bos talks about extracting core from the bottom of Orakei Basin, a lake in a volcanic crater (maar)

Posters and presentations from the event are available here.

The morning talks and posters were on the theme of volcanic hazard, including updates from PhD projects: 1) the geochemistry of lavas in previous eruptions and 2) a summary of a very successful drilling project in one of Auckland’s maars (Orakei Basin). The complete cores will help construct the regional eruption and climatic history from the last 100,000 years! Other topics were 3) using ocean and other ambient city noise to image Auckland’s crust, and 4) AVF eruption style studies based on pyroclastic fall deposits.

After a fun, interactive morning tea which served as an extension to the first poster session, the oral talks continued, this time with a focus on the current state of the AVF, including instrumentation being used and techniques being used to uncover buried faults in the Auckland. During lunch, stakeholders from the Auckland Council, Civil Defence, and lifelines organisations (e.g. ASB, Vector) mingled with the scientists to forge new relationships or strengthen existing ties. These connections will no doubt prove invaluable during a volcanic crisis.


Daniel Blake presents his PhD research on how ash on roads affects driving conditions

The oral presentations continued after lunch, although the focus progressed from the volcanic geology and hazards to hazard assessment and recovery. Topics included results from studies on how ash affects skid time on road surfaces to an update on the tool Riskscape. The second ‘pop up’ poster presentation session introduced the Hazard Hub to the DEVORA community, in addition to summarising ongoing research about improving hazard maps and ash effects on pastureland. The concept of DEVORA ‘Fact Sheets’ was also introduced.

If you are interested in the Hazard Hub, you might also be interested in DEVORA’s in-progress Fact Sheets. These Fact Sheets will be topic-based, for example, ‘What we know about lava flows in the AVF.’ Each Fact Sheet will be a comprehensive summary of the main findings about the topic at hand, intended for the public.


Fact sheet idea from a postgraduate student, Marie Claire Pascua.

The day concluded with a great discussion led by DEVORA co-leaders Graham Leonard and our own Jan Lindsay about research directions DEVORA is interested in pursuing in the near future, with feedback from the stakeholders and other scientists in attendance.



The second exciting workshop took place on 11 November and involved hypothetically destroying Auckland with fire and brimstone!

Josh Hayes, a DEVORA PhD candidate from the University of Canterbury, is developing eight new Auckland eruption scenarios, similar to what was developed for Exercise Ruaumoko (you can read more about that here). These scenarios cover a range of eruption styles, locations, volcanic phenomena, and durations of pre-cursor and eruptive activity in order to cover many of the likely hazards and their impacts before, during, and after a future eruption.


Josh Hayes leads a workshop to develop Auckland eruption scenarios

At the workshop, Josh led over 20 participants, mainly volcanologists and stakeholders from the Auckland Council, through each proposed scenario to refine and evaluate them.  There were some fabulous discussions and feedback that Josh can use to continue shaping the scenarios. They will be reviewed by several more scientists before they are finalised.

The AVF eruption scenarios will be available within a planning tool currently under development called RiskScape-Volcano (more information can be found here: Within RiskScape, any one of the proposed scenarios can be applied to almost any point in Auckland, thus allowing users to examine the impacts of that particular scenario on Auckland’s infrastructure, economy, and people. This will help stakeholders, including Civil Defence, prepare for a future eruption. The RiskScape tool is the culmination of work over the past 8 years through DEVORA. The ability to “create your own eruption” is a very exciting prospect that can really help us work on hazards in our own backyard!


Volcanologists deliberating at the Auckland eruption scenario workshop

A Hub for Hazards, by Jan Lindsay and Giovanni Coco

We are thrilled to share that we have established a research and teaching Hub for Hazards at the University of Auckland. Our aim is to build and nurture partnerships with national and international organisations and thus to develop a community of experts that can tackle modern inter-disciplinary challenges in natural hazards and to contribute to the education of future generations.

The history of the Asia-Pacific region teaches us that no natural hazard in this area can be underestimated, and that dealing with hazards using a inter-disciplinary approach is the way forward. At the University of Auckland, we have expertise in a variety of physical hazards (especially volcanic, coastal, seismic and landslide hazards) as well as in a variety of areas related to hazard and risk management (for example hazard and risk communication, disaster risk reduction and governance). We are excited about joining forces to explore innovative multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches to natural hazard research.

The Hub specialises in facilitating a synergetic and multidisciplinary approach to the study of natural hazards. Researchers from the University of Auckland are already connected to a range of universities and organisations, particularly those that specialise in impacts, risk, resilience and recovery, through a variety of projects funded at the local, national and international level. Our network of collaborations and shared interests is already particularly strong in the Asia-Pacific region, and we look forward to establishing new contacts and exploring further endeavours.

Watch this space as the Hub is set in motion, and please check out our webpage and find out more about us!