Friday, November 19, 2010

Is Paektusan ready to erupt?

UPDATE (May 2012):
I have written a similar but far more extensive post on the same subject matter, highlighting Paektusan being overdue not just for its once-a-century eruption but its once-a-century cataclysm.

ORIGINAL POST (November 2010):
The Wall Street Journal discusses the buzz about this possibility:
For a few months, one of the stories that keeps echoing around South Korea is about the possibility that Mount Baektu, the dormant volcano straddling the border of North Korea and China, might erupt again. ...

Baektu last erupted in 1903. Yoon Sung-hyo, professor of geology at Busan National University, triggered the latest speculation a few months ago when he said a new eruption there could be bigger than the one in Iceland that disrupted air travel between Europe and North America earlier this year.

Earlier this week, the Unification Ministry said it might form a task force to study the prospects of an eruption at Baektu.

And the subject came up at a meeting in Jeju on Wednesday of meteorologists from Japan, China and South Korea. The main topic of that meeting was how to monitor earthquake activity. A Chinese scientist said the country keeps a close eye on the mountain, called Changbai Shan in China, and sees little reason to worry.
Yeah, we all know how reliable the Chinese are about predicting catastrophic events.

Frankly, I'd forgotten about Paektusan's 1903 eruption, which isn't that long ago in the whole scheme of things. Mt Lassen in Northern California also erupted at about the same time. For reference, Mt Hallasan, which dominates Chejudo in the south, last erupted in 1007; Mt Fuji, Japan's iconic volcano, last erupted in 1707 and 1708.

I can will make a serious prediction: If Paektusan were to erupt on a scale like that of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano [above], it would be the end of the regime. Hysteria and fear would overtake the locals and tax the provincial authorities so much that there would be a collapse of local control, leading to a domino effect.

Anyway, I think the idea about monitoring seismic activity is a good one. We need a baseline so we can distinguish between normal low-grade tremors, North Korean nuclear tests and/or detonations of large amounts of dynamite to mimic nuclear tests, and the return of Pulgasari to wreak havoc on us all.

Pulgasari's lair is just below
the L in "Lake Trench."
[Note to the Wall Street Journal: It's Paektusan, not Baektu. It's a North Korean mountain, making McCune-Reischauer the dominant spelling convention, so it's a P, not B. In fact, Baektu is a hybrid of the wretched "Revised" Romanization (i.e., the B) and M-R (i.e., the -kt- instead of -kd-).]

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