Home News China volcano region 'in active stage' as scientists warn of looming eruption

China volcano region 'in active stage' as scientists warn of looming eruption


Researchers believe that the Wei Mountain volcano in China’s northeast region of Heilongjiang is sitting on top of a large amount of magma, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) has said.

Modelling suggests that there are two enormous magma chambers underneath the volcano that are bigger than the volcano itself.

Mount Paektu

Mount Paektu – not the Wei Mountain volcano in question – as seen from inside North Korea. (Image: Eric Lafforgue / Art In All Of Us / Corbis / Getty)

Little information on Wei Mountain appears to be available, though SCMP reports it is 100 metres tall and 3.1 miles wide.

The last time the volcano erupted is said to be over 500,000 years ago, with scientists considering it now extinct.

As a result, there has been more focus on other volcanoes such as Paektu Mountain – otherwise known as Changbai – which is also near the China-North Korea border.

However, in a study published in the journal Geology this month, researchers claimed that the volcanic fields of both Changbai and Wei might be linked in some way.

A team from the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui, visited almost 100 sites around Wei Mountain as part of their study, SCMP reports.

The team then used sensors to detect magma underground, and reportedly found unusual readings at depths of 8km and 15km.

Modelling of the data suggested that there might be two huge magma chambers with a combined depth of over 9km, SCMP adds.

The team calculated that 15 percent of the chamber might now be filled with magma.

READ: Can a nuclear bomb set off a Yellowstone volcano eruption? 


Volcanoes can erupt if their magma chambers get too full. (Image: Ferdi Awed / AFP / Getty)

SCMP claims that volcanic eruptions could take place if this amount increases to 40 percent.

The team concluded that volcanic activity in northeast China “is likely to be in an active stage,” SCMP adds, and called for further volcanic monitoring in order to fully understand what was happening underground.

However, Xu Jiandong, director of the volcanic research division at the China Earthquake Administration in Beijing, suggested that huge magma chambers beneath Wei Mountain raised some questions.

Wei Mountain is reportedly situated in the Wudalianchi volcanic field in the Heilongjiang region, and Xu said that the last eruption there was in the early 1700s.


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A diagram detailing the anatomy of a volcano. (Image: Encyclopaedia Britannica / UIG / Getty)

Xu added that researchers had been studying two other volcanoes in the field for some time and that after decades of monitoring, “we’ve picked up almost nothing” in terms of movement.

Xu said: “If there really are huge magma chambers in the area, we should have detected some related seismic activities,” SCMP reports. “What we know for certain is that the Wudalianchi region is active.”

In other volcano news, 9News reported yesterday that the threat level for the Whakaari volcano in New Zealand has been lowered.

White Island

The White Island volcano in New Zealand erupting last December – which reportedly killed 21 people. (Image: Marty Melville / AFP / Getty)

The volcano erupted last December, killing 21 people. It’s the first time since then that the threat level for the volcano – also known as White Island – has been lowered.

Volcanologists at GNS Science yesterday placed Whakaari under alert level one – which warns of minor volcanic unrest.

However, Dr Steven Sherburn said that an eruption could still happen “with little or no advanced warning,” 9News reports.

As well as Whakaari, another New Zealand volcano called Ruapehu is also under threat level one.


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