Secrets of enigmatic largest-ever volcano to be unlocked


James Hammond, geologist at the University of London in Great Britain.


    Mt Paektu, a 1 000-year-dead volcano, is drawing special attention from the seismological world as a research article has been published that there are significant amounts of molten rock beneath the volcano which erupted in 946 as one of the largest in history.

The research was triggered by seismic unrest that had been observed between 2002 and 2005 in the crust beneath the mountain.

Many are eager to know if the mountain might erupt again as it did over 1 000 years ago—so powerfully that the ashes were flown as far away as the Japanese archipelago.

To find an answer to this puzzle, an international team consisting of seismologists from the DPRK Earthquake Administration, State Academy of Sciences, University of London and University of Cambridge conducted a joint survey around Mt Paektu between 2013 and 2015.

The project was supported by the British Royal Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Environmental Education Media Project and other international agencies.

Six broadband seismometers have been set up in the 60-km section from Janggun Peak, the highest top of the mountain, to Sinhung Workers' District, Taehongdan County, Ryanggang Province, and collected rock samples were sent to foreign laboratories for analysis.

After two years of observation and collaboration, researchers proved that partial melt is present in the crust beneath Mt Paektu and estimated the composition of the gas emission during the 2002-2005 seismic and volcanic unrest and details about the eruption 1 000 years ago such as the year when it erupted, its crust, and magmatic temperature, depth and components. The estimates suggested that the region of melt may represent a potential source for the magma that erupted in 946.

In February, “Evidence for partial melt in the crust beneath Mt Paektu, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” was carried on Science Advances, journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as the first of papers to come in the future.

“I’m honoured to participate in the research into the largest-ever Mt Paektu volcano,” said James Hammond, geologist at the University of London. “I am very happy with the first results of the project.”

He said that the joint research project draws particular attention from the academic and public circles as it deals with the enigmatic volcano and represents the first joint project of its kind by Western and Korean scientists.

“We are continuing to work with our DPRK colleagues to analyse the data we have collected over the next 1-2 years, and hope to explore this possibility and the expansion to other areas of Earth and environmental science through international collaboration,” he said.


By Kim Rye Yong PT