Destroyed houses, deserted streets, sun covered by ashes: no, it is not the consequences of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula but the consequences that could result from an eruption of Paektu volcano located on the border between Korea and Japan. North and China.
The last time the Paektu volcano has been talked about goes back more than a thousand years but scientists expect a new powerful explosion in the coming years. Pyongyang’s relentless nuclear tests are likely to contribute to it
The imminent eruption of the Paektu volcano continues to worry researchers around the world. Its power is less than that of super-volcanoes spewing lava every 100,000 years and are capable of causing climate change all over the planet, but the strength of the sacred Paektu mountain on the Sino-Korean border could all even be dozens of times larger than the explosion of the largest thermonuclear bombs ever tested by mankind. For two thousand years, only four eruptions of this power have taken place around the world. We could therefore soon attend a fifth.
Since the early 2000s, Chinese researchers have regularly observed minor earthquakes in the Paektu region. The edges of the crater of the volcano rise gradually, the temperature rises in the thermal springs nearby, just like the concentration of helium. All this could testify to the return of the volcano to an active phase and an imminent eruption. Volcano scientists think that 10 km under the mountain is a big focus of magma that fills up gradually from the lower foci – and will sooner or later spill out.
Volcanoes like Paektu erupt about every thousand years. Knowing that the last powerful eruption dates from 946, it is quite likely that he is now “gathering his forces” for a new powerful explosion whose consequences could be disastrous for the more than one million people. Chinese and North Koreans who live in this region
The last major eruption, of magnitude 7 on the Richter scale, had caused the emission of an immense amount of hot gas, ash and stones which, projected at high speed, had destroyed all forms of life on their way. From the torn summit of the mountain flowed lava flows, which ignited all the vegetation of the region. Even a thousand years later, the ecosystem has not fully recovered in this area.
The new explosion could be even more destructive: the 2 billion tonnes of water from Paradise Lake formed in the crater could cause flooding by overflowing the largest border rivers Yalou (Amnok) and Tumen (which marks the border between the Russia and North Korea). Especially since the contact with water would generate more ash, which can go up to eclipse the sun for several months causing an effect similar to a nuclear winter. In the end, the average temperature in North-East Asia would drop by 2 ° C.
Moreover, according to scientists, it is difficult to predict the strength of the eruption at the current stage. During its deep hibernation, the Paektu has already woken up several times, limiting itself to a few minor shows. The last time goes back more than a hundred years. Therefore, even if the eruption was half as powerful, the cloud of smoke would reach neighboring countries. If it occurred in summer, it would cover mainly northeastern China and North Korea, as well as southern Russian Primorie. While in winter, when the westerly winds blow, the ashes will fly towards Japan and the south of the Korean peninsula.
However, scientists are no longer debating whether to expect an eruption or not, but are trying to determine when it will occur.
Do not wake the sleeping cat
Paektu is only 115 km from the Punggye-ri polygon where North Korea conducts its nuclear tests. The latest, which caused an artificial earthquake of magnitude 5.7 on the Richter scale (6.1 according to other estimates) was followed by a series of minor tremors probably caused by a landslide. Some experts believe that if North Korea continues to test bombs of greater power, they could trigger an eruption of Paektu.
According to calculations by South Korean researchers, a nuclear test with a power of more than one megaton in TNT equivalent causing an earthquake of magnitude 7 would create a pressure of 120kPa on the magmatic foci, causing the eruption.
However, this remains purely theoretical because no real case of “acceleration” of a volcanic eruption has been observed in history. In more than 50 years of nuclear testing on the Nevada US Polygon, where 921 explosions took place, including more than one megatonne, nothing serious happened at less than 300 The polygon is Long Valley – one of the largest dormant super-volcanoes on the planet. Nor was there an eruption during the 1971 tests when, 90 km from three stratovolcans in Alaska, a 5-megatonne bomb was tested. The magnitude 6.9 earthquake that followed did not wake either the 62 dormant and active volcanoes on the Aleutian Islands.
According to American experts, this is due to the fact that artificial earthquakes are mostly high frequency, while the natural tremors that can actually cause a volcanic eruption are low frequency. However, the structure of the magma and rocks nearby is heterogeneous, and many phenomena in the activity of volcanoes remain a mystery to the researchers, so no one completely rejects the possibility of an eruption caused by a nuclear explosion .
South Korean experts can not predict exactly when the next Paektu eruption will occur. But volcanologists are convinced that it is inescapable. At the same time, it is almost impossible to predict the date of the cataclysm at a time when North Korean trials are gaining momentum.