'99% Chance' of Mt. Baekdu Eruption by 2032

      May 21, 2012 12:30

      Japanese scientists claim there is a 99 percent chance that Mt. Baekdu on the border between North Korea and China will erupt in the next 20 years due to the impact of the massive earthquake in Japan in March last year. But experts here said the timing of an eruption is hard to predict, though Mt. Baekdu remains an active volcano.

      Japanese media on Sunday reported Hiromitsu Taniguchi, a volcano expert at Tohoku University, has concluded there is a 68 percent chance of Mt. Baekdu erupting by 2019 and a 99 percent chance of an eruption by 2032.

      Taniguchi based his inference on the historical relationship in timing between earthquakes in Japan and eruptions of Mt. Baekdu. Historical documents from Korea and China show that Mt. Baekdu erupted at least six times between the 14th and 20th centuries, Taniguchi said, and every time it followed an earthquake in Japan.

      Mt. Baekdu erupted in 1373, 1597, 1702, 1898, 1903 and 1925.

      "A Chinese nuclear power plant being constructed 100 km northwest of Mt. Baekdu is highly likely to be impacted by an eruption," Taniguchi said. "If an eruption occurs, it will affect not only North Korea and China, but Japan, Russia and other surrounding countries as well."

      Korean experts are skeptical of Taniguchi's forecast. They say it is true that there is magma activity underneath the mountain but no scientific reason to predict a 99 percent chance of eruption.

      "It strains interpretation of the data to predict the timing of an eruption based on historical statistics of Japanese earthquakes and volcanic activity on Mt. Baekdu," said Cho Bong-kon at Chonbuk National University. And Yoon Sung-hyo at Pusan National University, the first Korean expert to warn of the threat of an eruption in 2010, "It is scientifically risky to predict the timing of an eruption, so we must take the forecast with a pinch of salt."

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