Mount Tongariro Volcano in New Zealand Erupts

Mount Tongariro volcano in New Zealand erupted without warning on Monday for the first time in over a century, burying several miles of New Zealand’s North Island under a large ash cloud. No injuries or damage have been reported.

The Mount Tongariro eruption, which occurred at 11:50pm local time on Monday, spewed ash that rose more than 4 miles high, according to eyewitnesses. As New Zealand’s 3 News reports, the eruption was a complete surprise to geologists–the last eruption was in 1897, and there was no indication that an eruption at Mount Tongariro was imminent.

While Mount Tongariro appears to have calmed down since erupting late Monday, GNS scientist Brad Scott says that whether or not Mount Tongariro could erupt again depends on what caused it in the first place.

“If it is steam driven… it’s unlikely to do much more because once the initial pressure drops occurred you’ll just get smaller activity,” Scott said at a press conference in New Zealand, as reported by The Dominion Post. “If it is being driven by a longer term magmatic process with molten material being intruded into the volcano it may take days to weeks before that sort of shows itself.”

In order to find out what’s driving the volcanic activity at Mount Tongariro, Scott says that scientists will need to take ash samples. “It’s really just a watch this space scenario,” he said.