Home Front Page North Korean Mount Paektu volcano may erupt

North Korean Mount Paektu volcano may erupt

North Korea may be hit by a massive volcanic eruption. Scientists have found that magma is flowing beneath Mount Paektu, threatening a population of more than 1.6 million.

Map showing the area that will be affected if Mount Peaktu erupts. Credit:EEMP

North Korea has all sorts of problems. Immediately to the south, its “better half” is racing ahead in terms of economic might and living conditions. Tensions with its last friend in the world, China, have been growing. Now the sacred volcano Mount Paektu has added to the list of worries, it may be on the verge of exploding.

Mount Paektu, a volcano that many believed was at a low risk of erupting, new analyses show that it has a molten core and may still be active. While initial analysis show that an eruption is not imminent, the actual risk of volcanic activity is much higher than previously believed.

Mount Paektu lies on the border between North Korea and China. The volcano last exploded in 946 a.d., and the resulting explosion would have been powerful enough to cover an area of 14.000 square kilometers in more than a meter of of hot magma.

Most scientists believed that Mount Paektu was dormant, given that it lies hundreds of kilometers outside of the Pacific Rim of Fire. Apart from some minor tremors from 2002 to 2005, there has been little obvious evidence of volcanic activity.

Due to international sanctions, scientists were limited in what equipment they could bring into North Korea. Anything with potential military applications was forbidden. Using seismic sensors, however, scientists were able to discover that molten magma was flowing beneath the surface of the mountain. This was an unexpected results.

As of yet, scientists aren’t sure how immediate any threat might be, but with 1.6 million people living within 100 kilometers of Mount Paektu, safety is a major concern.

The discovery was made as part of a joint collaboration between Western and North Korean scientists, marking one of the rare examples of cooperation between the rogue, hermit state and the West.

Interestingly enough, it was actually North Korean scientists who reached out for help. Working with the international NGO the Environmental Education Media Project, an international team of scientists were assembled.

The results of these efforts were published in Science Advances.