It’s not every day that a troop of scientists and chances of media coverage are welcomed into the world’s most mysterious country, North Korea. However, as this issue involves China, as well, several Western and UK scientists were invited to perform their research on North Korean land. After all, the sacred Mount Paektu volcano may be erupting soon… and even a silly dictator with a God complex wouldn’t want his land to go to waste!
In a recent study published in the journal Science Advances, scientists reveal that the previously assumed inactive volcano on the border of North Korea and China is, well, very much active. Changbai, as the Chinese call it, last erupted in 947 A.D. with a magnitude of 7, throwing debris and ash up to an area of 96 cubic kilometers; even Japan received its share of volcanic ash back then. This incident was dubbed the “Millennial Eruption”, as no eruption of this magnitude has taken place since.
For the past years, the sacred Mount Paektu has been assumed inactive by scientists. However, recent tremors and rumbles coming from the mountain have lead the scientists to doubt their assumptions. The earthquakes of 2002 and 2005 just might have changed the volcano’s situation. And after much hassle and a couple of years, western scientists were allowed to install 6 seismometers on the North Korean side of the volcano, which then allowed them to study all sides of the volcano for 2 years. Hence, the scientists discovered that the volcano was not so dormant, with blobs of melted crust and molten magma residing within the mountain, spanning 20 km laterally.
Scientists still don’t know when the volcano might erupt; they continue to study the seismic waves and the mountain’s historic eruptions in hopes that they may be able to plot out a pattern that helps them predict its next eruption. Furthermore, the impact of such an eruption may go well beyond China and North Korea; it should be noted that while the last eruption in 947 A.D. had a magnitude of 7, any eruption of magnitude 8 and more would be considered a super-volcano, capable of inflicting worldwide destruction.
This discovery remains one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the age. This also marks the first time western geophysical equipment was installed in North Korean borders. So here’s to hoping the record setting remains on a solely scientific and theoretic basis…