Mount Doom Likely to Blow: New Zealand Volcano Ruapehu Could Spell Disaster For ‘Hobbit’ Premiere

By iScienceTimes Staff on November 19, 2012 5:42 PM EST

Mt. Ruapehu erupting in 2007
photo: reuters (Photo: Reuters)

Mount Ruapehu, better known as Mount Doom in the 'Lord of the Rings' movies, is showing signs of activity and a major or minor eruption will happen in the coming weeks, according to geologists with the New Zealand Department of Conservation. The DOC has issued a warning to ban hikers from exploring the mountain because they believe Mount Doom is likely to blow. Geologists are observing a lake formed by snow melt in the volcano's crater for temperature shifts.

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"We think that the temperature a few hundred meters beneath Crater Lake is about 800 Celsius [1,472 degrees Fahrenheit], but the lake itself is only about 20 C [68 F]," said volcanologist Steven Sherburn, in an alert bulletin released by GNS Science, a New Zealand geologic hazard monitoring organization. "This suggests the vent is partly blocked, which may be leading to a pressure buildup beneath Crater Lake."

The build-up of pressure is a sure sign to volcanologists that Mount Doom is likely to blow sooner rather than later.

"The current situation can't continue, Ruapehu is so active that the temperatures have been going up and down a lot," DOC volcanic risk manager Harry Keys told Radio New Zealand. "They generally haven't gone up as we've expected for some weeks now and sooner or later that situation will be rectified, either in a small, relatively passive way, or with a significant eruption."

Ruapehu last erupted in 2007. There were no fatalities, but a hiker narrowly avoided being crushed when a large rock fell on his leg. The greatest threat posed by an eruption is a lahar - a landslide of water, mud and ash that occurs when an eruption encounters a body of water on the mountainside. A lahar from Ruapehu killed 151 people in 1953 when it washed away a rail bridge and passenger train.

Ruapehu is actually one of two 'Mount Dooms' used in the filming of the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. Long shots of Mount Doom depicted nearby Mount Ngauruhoe, another active volcano. Scenes that took place on the slopes of Mount Doom were filmed on Ruapehu.

Mount Doom is likely to blow in the next few weeks, but an accurate prediction is impossible because of the volatile nature of volcanoes. The 9,100-foot mountain also neighbors Mount Tongariro, which erupted in August and created a 20,000-ft ash plume that wreaked havoc on New Zealand's domestic air travel. This would no doubt cause a logistics nightmare if it erupts ahead of next week's 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' premiere in the capital city of Wellington next week.

Here's footage of a Ruapehu eruption:

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