Episode 3 - A Fiery Future

Episode 3 - A Fiery Future
Episode 3 - A Fiery Future

About the show

It’s the future that concentrates the minds of scientists in Auckland. New Zealand’s largest city is constructed on an active volcanic field with approximately 53 volcanoes. The city could be the site of a major volcanism event at any time. 

When a major event occurs, what might it be? Where are the likely locations? What would the consequences be? Will Auckland experience volcanic explosions, tsunamis and firestorms as multiple volcanic episodes ‘unleash hell’? Or is it in for something more benign? This episode follows researchers and emergency planners as they reveal evidence of ancient eruptions and explore volcanic caves beneath the city.

Rangitoto Island is Auckland’s youngest volcano however knowledge from early Polynesian inhabitants mashed with recent research has revealed important fresh information and new insights. With this to consider, how Auckland might prepare for a fiery future?


On Auckland and the inevitable eruption;

  • Much of Auckland was once below the ocean, but a volcanic hotspot built up a narrow bridge of land across the harbour. Now, almost two million people live on the still active volcanic field.
  • Home to 1.5 million people and 53 volcanoes, Auckland sits on a cocktail of gas, steam and rock, could erupt at any time, and with little warning.
  • Sometime in the future, a volcano will erupt beneath Auckland and cause terrible destruction. We know, because it’s happened before.
    • Most of Auckland’s volcanoes have only erupted once, because of this, volcanologists don’t know when and where the next one will be. 
    • Scientists know that an eruption here could devastate an area of at least three kilometres radius. Lateral explosive blasts of air hotter than 400 degrees would flatten trees, buildings, and anything else in their path.
  • There are several scenarios:
    • One would be lava, slowly flowing across the landscape, destroying everything in its path.
    • Another would be a massive explosion, as the volcanic liquid comes into contact with the sea water.

On emergency services and preparation;

  • Bayfield Park in Herne Bay is the centre of a network of seismometers, recording vibrations beneath the earth.
  • Seismometers are extremely sensitive, capable of picking up the smallest vibrations. 
  • A volcanic eruption is classed by the city as one of three ‘catastrophic’ events.
  • Auckland Emergency Management regularly run exercises and training with GNS Science and emergency response agencies to ensure the region can respond to any disaster.
  • Never Happens? Happens. Visit the happens website to find out more about being prepared for a volcanic event, and know your hazards and what to do in an emergency.