Taupo Volcano | John Seach


North Island, New Zealand

8.82S 176.00E
summit elevation 760 m

Taupo Volcano is large and has many vents, most of which are now under Lake Taupo. The volcano makes up only the northern half of the lake and a small surrounding area. Minor unrest episodes of unrest at Taupo have occurred approximately once per decade since 1870.

Taupo Volcano photos by John Seach

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo is a volcanic crater lake located in the central North Island of New Zealand, and has a history of volcanic activity dating back over 300,000 years. The most recent eruption occurred about 1800 years ago, and it was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the world in the last 5000 years. 

Taupo lake is a popular tourist destination, offering a range of recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and hiking. The area surrounding Lake Taupo is also home to a number of thermal springs and geysers, including the famous Wai-O-Tapu, which features bubbling mud pools, geysers, and colorful mineral pools. 

Nearby volcanic landscapes include the Tongariro National Park, which is home to several volcanoes, including Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Ruapehu. These peaks offer opportunities for hiking, skiing, and snowboarding, as well as offering stunning views of the surrounding area.

Taupo volcano is not a mountain because the eruptions have been explosive and formed a caldera. Rhyolite accounts for about 98% of all erupted material at Taupo. Most of the rhyolite has been erupted explosively as pumice and ash.

Eruptions of basalt are rare at Taupo volcano. Some small basaltic cones about 500 m across and 200 m high have been formed. Examples are seen around the lake shoreline near Acacia Bay.

Hydrothermal vents in Lake Taupo
The inferred central vent of the 1.8 ka Taupo eruption is located near Horomatangi Reefs. The hydrothermal vents were discovered during a submersable survey in 1998.

2023 Earthquake
A magnitude 5.0 earthquake occurred under Lake Taupo on 4 February 2023. The earthquake focus was 81 km below the lake.

2022 Unrest
Taupo volcano was raised to level 1 alert on 20 September 2022 after earthquakes and ground deformation was detected.

1983 Earthquake swarm
In June and July 1983 an earthquake swarm was located under Horomatangi
Reefs. Focal depths were 5 km.

1964-65 Earthquake swarm
Between December 1964 and February 1965 a swarm of 1126 earthquakes began in the western edge of lake Taupo and migrated southeast. The earthquake magnitudes ranged from 2.7 to 4.5.

1.8 ka Taupo eruption
The most recent eruption at Taupo volcano generated 35-100 cubic km of material, and was one of the largest eruptions on earth in the past 5000 years. The Plinian eruption column probably would have been 50 km high, which collapsed to produce pyroclastic flows. Pumice fallout from the eruption extended for 220 km on land. Three eruptive centres have been identified with the eruption. They are aligned NE-SW fissure centred on Horomatangi Reefs.

26.5 ka Oruanui eruption (VEI 8)
This eruption generated > 430 cubic km of fall deposits and 300 cubic km of
pyroclastic material. The eruption was a caldera-forming event. This is the most recent supereruption on Earth.

Further reading
Wilson, C.J., Blake, S., Charlier, B.L.A. and Sutton, A.N., 2006. The 26· 5 ka Oruanui eruption, Taupo volcano, New Zealand: development, characteristics and evacuation of a large rhyolitic magma body. Journal of Petrology47(1), pp.35-69.

Wilson, C.J.N., 1993. Stratigraphy, chronology, styles and dynamics of late Quaternary eruptions from Taupo volcano, New Zealand. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A: Physical and Engineering Sciences343(1668), pp.205-306.

Blake, S., Wilson, C.J.N., Smith, I.E.M. and Walker, G.P.L., 1992. Petrology and dynamics of the Waimihia mixed magma eruption, Taupo Volcano, New Zealand. Journal of the Geological Society149(2), pp.193-207.

Taupo Volcano Eruptions

23210 AD - The fifth largest caldera forming eruption in history.
26,500 years ago, (largest eruption)
150,000 years ago
330,000 years ago