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Risk of Volcanic Eruption on Mount Baekdu Studied

Posted August. 31, 2010 13:23,   


With debate flaring up over the potential for a volcanic eruption on Mount Baekdu, a think tank has begun steps to investigate this possibility and prepare countermeasures.

The National Institute for Disaster Prevention under the National Emergency Management Agency in Seoul said Monday, “We are analyzing the possibility of a volcanic eruption on Mount Baekdu,” adding, “We’re trying to predict the magnitude of an eruption and preparing countermeasures at the pan-government level.”

The mountain is in North Korea along its border with China. The results of the initial study will come out as early as next month.

Since late June, the institute has been probing the possibility of an eruption on Mount Baekdu, the boundary and volume of volcanic ash to emerge if the event occurs, and where the ash could go depending on season.

The study is the first of its kind by the South Korean government and comes amid a string of volcanic explosions worldwide. A volcanic eruption in Iceland in April caused major disruption in the global aviation industry and Monday’s eruption on the Indonesian island of Sumatra caused ash to rise two kilometers high.

The institute reportedly reached a preliminary conclusion that if Mount Baekdu erupts, the intensity will depend on the season but that it will affect the East Sea and Japan more than the two Koreas because of the influence of westerly winds.

The volcanic explosivity index of the mountain is six to 7.4, meaning the impact could be 10 to 100 times that of the Icelandic volcanic eruption (five). A gap of one in the index translates into a difference of 10 times in magnitude.

The last eruption of Mount Baekdu is believed to have occurred around the year 946.

The possible eruption of the mountain has been the subject of heated debate in recent months because since 2002, areas around the mountain have seen minor earthquakes occur 10 times more frequently than normal.

A seminar on the topic hosted by the emergency management agency June 16 even suggested the years 2014 and 2015 as a definite time when an eruption will occur.

Chinese agencies, however, have said through media that despite constant monitoring by earthquake authorities, the mountain has shown no abnormal signs.

To build a system to predict the spread of volcanic ash in the event of an eruption on Mount Baekdu, the institute will commission a study by a private organization and look for a service organization. The institute will also conduct research on its own.