The scientific tourist #64 — Wei O Tapu

Today’s image comes to you from the North Island of beautiful New Zealand:

Wai o Tapu pond

This is a picture of one of the pools in the Wei O Tapu geothermal area. Should you ever make it to New Zealand, Wei O Tapu (Maori for “Sacred Waters”) is essentially a mini-Yellowstone, so it’s easy to see in a day and it’s conveniently located just 20 minutes’ drive south of Rotorua. Wei O Tapu is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, a swath of volcanic activity driven by the collision of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates.

While plate boundaries and plate subduction are hardly unique to the region, New Zealand does give them a peculiar local twist. Along the eastern coast of the North Island, the Pacific Plate is being subducted under the Australian Plate at a rate of about 50 mm/year. Along the length of the South Island, the boundary forms the Alpine Fault, where the two plates slide along each other at about 30 mm/year. Then further South, the boundary’s behavior changes yet again with the Australian Plate being subducted under the Pacific Plate.

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