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Volcanic Eruption May Be Triggered by North Korean Nuclear Tests

by Sankalan Baidya
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North Korean nuclear tests are stirring up the world political scenario. In case you are not aware, the country developed and tested a thermo-nuclear bomb or simply put a hydrogen bomb in January, 2016. Well, the North Korean claim was not really welcomed by the international community of nuclear powers.

As of now, North Korea is planning on more tests. Whether such plans are mere fairy tales or whether they are going to be true is a subject of debate but yes, if such claims happen to be true, then there can be some serious problems – problems that are not only stirring up the global leaders but also the seismologists.

Apparently, when the political leaders of the world are much more concerned about the developing threat in terms of… we don’t really know what to say… let us put it this way – a country with mad leadership getting access to weapons of mass destruction, there is a whole different concern for seismologists. These people – who are miles away from the political world and dwell in the scientific world are far more concerned about the alleged location of the upcoming tests.

Concerns over location of upcoming North Korean nuclear tests

What’s the big deal with the location? Well, North Korea is apparently planning of conducting some underground tests in a location which sits very close to the infamous Mount Paekdu (pronounced as Baekdu). The problem is that this Mount Paekdu is a very active volcano and it has a really bad history of disastrous eruptions.

Seismologists are actually concerned that an underground nuclear test by North Korea will change will change the dynamic stress in magma chamber of the volcano and then – well, it might just erupt!

Professor Hong Tae-kyung from Yonsei University published a study in Nature. According to the study, if the explosions have a magnitude of anywhere between 5 and 7.6, the dynamic stress in magma chamber of Mount Paekdu will change and this can lead to an eruption.

The real threat of alleged North Korean nuclear tests

Scientists are not really concerned over the volcanic eruption that can take place because of the underground nuclear tests that North Korea may or may not conduct. A volcano which is active can erupt at any given moment. The real concern is not the eruption itself but the volcanic ash that will be released. Before we get into details of what can possibly happen, there is something more we need to tell.

North Korean nuclear tests

In case you are not aware, the 9000-feet volcano actually sits at the border of North Korea and China. The last time this volcano spewed out magma and volcanic ash was in 1903 but that wasn’t a major eruption. The deadliest of all eruptions of Mount Paekdu took place back in 946 CE and the event goes by the name, Millennium Eruption.

The name itself should tell you a lot but yes, in case you want to know, it was one of the deadliest eruptions in last 2000 years of human history. Many ancient history books have records of the Millennium Eruption and they tell quite some fascinating stories. For instance, the eruption was so massive that the Emperor sitting back in the capital located 450 kilometers away, heard the explosion and experienced an apocalyptic panic attack. As a result of that panic attack, the emperor pardoned every convict locked in prison.

So if the stories are true, you can very well understand the type of eruption that this volcano is capable of. It may not really need underground North Korean nuclear tests to erupt. Even if a nuke breathes life into the volcano, the resulting eruption may not be any bigger than the natural one. Even more, given the sheer size of the volcano, if the North Koreans decide to drop a nuke right into the volcano and detonate it, the whole force of the nuke will be quickly dissipated by the extreme heat of the molten magma.

So, where exactly is the threat? It will come in form of nuclear fallout that can reach to far corners of the world. How come? Blame the volcanic ash which can carry it to super-long distances. According to Professor Hong Tae-kyung, the Millennium Eruption was so massive that a 2-inch layer of volcanic ash was deposited some 650 miles away in various parts of Northern Japan.

So, it is highly possible that an underground North Korean nuclear test can actually lead to dangerous nuclear fallout. The immediate impact will be on North Korea and China but other countries may not stay safe and sound.

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