Mount Ruapehu on New Zealand’s north island is starting to show signs of eruption, and hikers have been warned to stay away from it. This is the real-life Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings, where many scenes of the movie were shot.

Photo by Eusebius@Commons

Mount Ruapehu is a stratovolcano with three major peaks: Tahurangi (2,797 m), Te Heuheu (2,755 m) and Paretetaitonga (2,751 m). The deep, active crater is between the peaks and fills with a crater lake between major eruptions. Recently, the volcano alert level for the mountain was raised to Level 2 (moderate to heightened unrest), because there’s a good chance the volcano might erupt soon.

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“There are more signs of life at the volcano,” volcanologist Brad Scott from GNS Science told National Geographic. “Recent visits to the volcano have confirmed an increase in the output of volcanic gas.”

It doesn’t mean that the volcano will definitely erupt, it’s spectacular to see Mount Doom showing signs of life.

“One of the common factors of the crater lake is it heats up and cools down. Typically those cycles last between nine and 14 months,” Scott told the press. “When there’s unrest that doesn’t always lead to an eruption. It can show more signs of life and then go back to a quieter state.”

Even if it does erupt, there’s not much reason to worry – unless you’re on it or directly around it. Ruapehu has erupted 60 times since 1945, with the majority of those eruptions being minor. The last time was in 2007, when a single hiker was injured as he was going up the mountain.

Researchers from Geonet – the national agency that monitors New Zealand’s geological threats – will continue to monitor the region closely over the next few weeks, to put out a clear warning as early as possible – in the case of an eruption.