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A sleeping giant, Volcano Baekdu

Mt. Baekdu, (Mount Paektu), 2,744 meter high and located on the border between North Korea and China erupted more than 1,000 years ago. It was one of the most violent and powerful in recorded history and is classified as a VEI-7 event. (Scientists use the Volcanic Explosivity Index or VEI to estimate the magnitude of explosive volcanic eruptions on a scale of 1 to 8, the index is based on several factors, such as the volume of erupted material and the height of eruption.) Volcanic ash from Mt. Baekdu eruption has been found as far as the southern part of Hokkaido, Japan. The eruption changed the landscape dramatically, leaving behind a three-mile crater with nearly two billion tons of water, today known as Heaven Lake.

Geologists predict the occurrence of great Mr. Baekdu eruptions every 1,000 years and that of minor ones every 200 to 300 years. Minor eruptions were recorded in 1413, 1597, 1668 and 1702 with the last activity recorded in 1903.

The volcano remained inactive for the past years until it had swarms of tiny earthquakes recorded at the volcano between 2002 and 2005. Experts say an expanding magma pool is gradually pushing up the height of the mountain. This has made scientists wonder whether it is preparing to unleash another massive eruption anytime soon.

Together with a team from North Korea, western researchers set up six state-of-the-art seismic monitors in the area and collected data for two years from 2013. Analysis of the data from the monitors revealed a large portion of the crust below the volcano appeared to be at least partially molten, a hint that the volcano could erupt. Although it has not been known when exactly it will erupt, volcanologists say the impact of the eruption would be way beyond Korea and China.

  • PuterMan

    And the temperature of the water in the lake is rising. So is the temperature of the water in the lake around Toba. An acquaintance of mine who lives near Toba says this is not good when added to the massive rise in the dome in the caldera over the past thousands of years. These two could blow in succession. Joy!