This Sci-Fi Sounding Danger is Very Real:
No it’s not a new blockbuster disaster movie, it’s a real risk. North Korea’s nuclear tests could cause a massive eruption. So what would that mean?
The Paektu supervolcano could bury half of Asia in ash, and North Korean nuclear tests threaten to wake the volcano from its sleep. Two British geologists have been granted extraordinary permission to observe Paektu, and they are worried.
Hi James, this is Clive. Have you ever thought about going to North Korea for a brief visit?”
The call is made in 2011, and one week later, two British geologists, James Hammond and Clive Oppenheimer, are in one of the world’s most unapproachable countries – after an almost unprecedented invitation from the Communist government itself. The underground has begun to stir, threatening North Korea as a nation.
Due to the short run-up, Hammond and Oppenheimer do not have much time to think about what they are doing, but when Hammond steps out of the plane in Pyongyang, he is both curious and anxious.
The two geologists' stay in the North Korean capital is a short one. Immediately upon arrival, they join about 30 North Korean geophysicists, seismologists, and volcanologists to fly north to the impressive mountain range of Changbai, which makes up the border between North Korea and China. It is also the location of the volcano of Mount Paektu.
If you do not know Mount Paektu, you are not the only one. The volcano is probably the one of the 25-30 sleeping supervolcanoes in the world about which we know the least. Supervolcanoes are volcanoes that have the potential to eject more than 1,000 km3 of magma, causing an ash cloud to rise 25 km into the air.
Mount Paektu has not produced a severe eruption since 946 AD, and the historic sources are very limited. However, 2,744-m-high Mount Paektu makes most other volcanoes seem like, well, fizzers. The North Korean volcano is a monster with sufficient explosive force to blanket half of Asia in ash and trigger a climate disaster that could cause a severe winter lasting several years across the whole of the Northern Hemisphere.
James Hammond and Clive Oppenheimer are the first Western geoscience researchers to visit Mount Paektu, which rises barren and scarred on the horizon.
Once on the volcano, the two scientists inspect the scarce and outdated scientific equipment, which North Korea has already erected, and learn the extent of the eruptions, the volcano could produce.
Subsequently, a long discussion follows between the Western scientists and their North Korean colleagues concerning future cooperation. When Hammond and Oppenheimer go home after one week, they have a welldefined mission. They are going to find time and money for exploring North Korea’s secret supervolcano to understand Mount Paektu’s full "potential".
Ash rained down over Japan and Greenland
In 2013, Hammond and Oppenheimer return to research all the evidence of the eruption in 946 AD, they can get close to along with their Korean colleagues. They study the extent and thickness of ash and lava, taking geochemical samples to determine the make-up of the magma and how it escaped the volcano.
According to Clive Oppenheimer, Mount Paektu's eruption in 946 was like "a million nuclear bombs
The border between China and North Korea winds across Mount Paektu. The top of the crater and Heaven Lake are located on the North Korean side.
James Hammond and North Korean geologists are ready to install seismometers on Mount Paektu.