The last few days Baekdu volcano and the Baekdudaegan mountain range crept up as a topic in the comment field. It is nothing unusual with that, after all Baekdu has had one of the largest eruptions in the last one thousand years. Some commenter’s also noted that it was inordinately hard to find any information on how the volcano came to be since it is so far from any subduction zone or well known mantle plume.
And here comes the problem, there has been surprisingly little research done on the volcano. Get me right here, there is nothing pointing towards Baekdu having the potential for a large eruption at this time, quite the opposite since it is such a newly formed caldera. Still, it merits scientific investigation due to it being a volcano at an unusual spot.
The closest I have come for an explanation is that it is an old subduction volcano from the time when Korea slammed into China, and that it is still situated next to an active but much slower fault line. Nothing seems to be pointing towards there being a plume under the mountain.
Another reason for scientific investigations is also that it is an active volcano with people living next to it. And as such it merits monitoring. Only problem is that there is no monitoring at the volcano. In 2011 North Korea asked South Korea and Japan for help with monitoring the volcano after an initial North Korean query to China got no reply. It was agreed that Japan would help with both technological and scientific aid, and that South Korea would use satellite capacity to monitor the mountain. Due to later political issues this has not come into fruition.
Here comes the rub. China did not even answer North Koreas request, a country they have held under their arms for 60 years. How come that North Korea had to turn to their southern neighbor and Japan for help in the first place?
The answer is both simple and stupid in equal amounts; I will get back to that.
A while ago I agreed to help a Chinese exchange doctoral student since he is writing his dissertation on a tangential subject to what I wrote my own about. Very friendly chap from Manchu and one day we were having a cup of coffee and I got talking about volcanoes and got into Baekdu since he came from the place. To my amazement he did not know it was a volcano. So, he googled it and found out that his ancestral home is pretty much next door to a honking large volcano. He was amazed that he had missed that so he called a friend back home. He did not know about it either, so the friend googled it and got nothing at all about Baekdu being a volcano.
From that we know one thing. The Chinese authorities does not want anyone locally to know that it is an active volcano, so much that they have suppressed Google from showing any information about it inside China. We should though not be surprised about that, China censors a lot of natural hazards from its own population for economic reasons. In this case the economic reason is spelled The Olympic Winter Games; in short it is Chinas bid for holding one of the games.
Even though the volcanic system is too small and fragile to contain enough pressure for a large eruption it is still not a good idea to play with lives like this. Any good mitigation and evacuation will be severely hampered when you first of all have to start off with telling people that you have lied to them up until now, and you know the population will not believe them the second time around either.
I hope that the monitoring will fall into slightly more sane hands with time. When even North Korea looks sane on an issue, then it is bad.
Update: Commenter UKViggen found an English only article published in China that mentions 14 years of Chinese monitoring. I could though not find any non-chinese confirmation on that monitoring station. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2011-05/24/content_12565013.htm
NtV Riddle (4)
2 points for each volcano … have a great weekend …
No 1 – Medic who might arrive to treat the fallen at Pinky Park in a timely manner. SOLVED Mount Baker
No 2 – Mendel, Hubble and Hertz to name but a few. SOLVED Craters of the Moon
No 3 – Stats model used to anticipate random effects. SOLVED Blup Blup Volcano
No 4 – Where my heroes go marching in … SOLVED St Mary’s Islands
No 5 – Named in honour of an 18th century explorer, naturalist and member of the RA of S. SOLVED Krasheninnikov
No 6 – Birthplace of a solitary dragon slayer.
No 7 – Dutch pole that could be considered mightier than the sword. SOLVED The Quill
No 8 – St Peter was left utterly devastated when Our Lord returned to Heaven. SOLVED Mount Pelee
Current Points Table:
14 – Alison
6 – Kelda, Edward
4 – Frances, Diana Barnes, Talla
2 – chryphia
1 – inannamoon667, Random Joe, KarenZ, mdatc