Monday, 12 January 2015

13th January - Science without borders: Unravelling the mysteries of Mt. Paektu Volcano, North Korea

Science without borders: Unravelling the mysteries of Mt. Paektu Volcano, North Korea
Dr. James Hammond, NERC Research Fellow, Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London
Mt. Paektu volcano (otherwise known as Changbaishan in China) is a stratovolcano on the North Korea/China border.  In the 10th century it was responsible for one of the largest eruptions in the last 2000 years, forming a 5 km wide caldera at the volcano summit with ash fall as far away as Japan.  More recently (2002-2005) the volcano showed an increase in activity with a marked increase in the number of earthquakes, measurable volcanic deformation and an increase in gas emissions - all pointing to magma recharge beneath the volcano. However, despite such a dramatic history and recent signs of magma movement, the volcano remains poorly understood.
The volcano’s location on the border of two of the world’s most secretive states is a major factor in limiting understanding of its behaviour.  In 2011 a UK delegation of scientists was invited to North Korea to discuss volcanic hazards and Mt. Paektu volcano with North Korean scientists. This led to a UK-US-North Korean collaboration (the first of its kind) to better understand the volcano.  In August 2013 a team of UK/US scientists deployed seismometers and collected geological samples around the volcano.  The seismic data is used to image magma storage beneath the volcano and this combined with constraints on historical eruptions from dating and characterising previous eruptions allows us to better understand the potential effects of future eruptions. This work, hopefully the first step in a longer lasting collaboration between the UK and North Korea, is allowing us insights into this enigmatic and potentially hazardous volcano.
7.30 p.m. Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol

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