Extra! Korea

June 19, 2010

North Korea’s Mount Baekdu could erupt … because of their nuclear tests

Filed under: North Korea, schadenfreude moment — extrakorea @ 12:01 pm

Wow. Rarely is the idiom “shoot yourself in the foot” so close to being literally true.

Geologist Yoon Sung-hyo at Pusan National University strongly believes that an eruption is possible.

“Baekdu could erupt anytime soon,” said Yoon who has monitored the mountain for changes. “A variety of indicators are backing this scenario. The thing we should try to predict is when. It’s clear it’s imminent.”

The geologist speculated that an eruption could take place in a couple of years.


Yet, “unusual signs,” including minor trembling among others, began to emerge around June 2002 and their frequency quakes has notably increased since a 7.3-magnitude earthquake rattled the area around the mountain, according to geologists..

Among other indicators backing the scenario of a future eruption is the height of Baekdu, which has grown nearly 10 centimeters since 2002. Experts say an expanding magma pool, a precondition for an eruption, is gradually pushing up the height of the mountain as well as the temperature on the surface.

On Oct. 1, 2006, a Russian satellite found the surface temperature of the mountain notably higher than before. The finding came just days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in its northern territory, which could have been a catalyst reactivating magma flows, according to analysts.

(emphasis mine)

So when might it erupt?

The last volcanic eruption at the 2,744-meter Mount Paektu was in 1903.


Historic records indicate volcanic activity has previously occurred on the mountain roughly every 100 years.


At a KMA seminar earlier this week, an expert said that Mount Paektu could erupt “within several years,” citing topographical signs and international studies. Some Chinese experts even predict that there may be an eruption between 2014 and 2015, said Yun Sung-whyo, a geology professor at Pusan National University.

And what kind of damage are we potentially looking at?

Yoon said that if Paektu does erupt, the damage will far exceed the airline chaos caused when a volcano in Iceland erupted last April. That eruption spewed about 0.11 cubic kilometers of lava, but lava flows and ashes from the Korean mountain will be of greater volume, Yoon said.

Imagine if that were to happen just as Kim Jong-un were taking the reins of power from his late father. That would be a sure sign that the heavens disapprove of him as much as the rest of us do.

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