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New monitoring equipment on Ruapehu and “volcano diplomacy” in Korea

It definitely hasn’t been quiet geologically around the planet, but news about volcanism seems to be in a bit of a lull right now. Most of what I’ve run across is either about the continuing activity in Indonesia or news about volcano monitoring …

Korean Peninsula: We have heard about the Baekdu (Changbaishan) caldera numerous times over the last year, which is odd considering it hasn’t erupted in over 100 years. However, much like any volcano that has been quiet but has an explosive past, there is a lot of incentive to keep an eye on it. If anything, Baekdu* might be an excellent opportunity to get the two Koreas to talk about anything – think of it as “volcano diplomacy”. In this case, the two nations are discussing the threat that the caldera poses to North Korea and China, along with how to improve monitoring efforts on the volcano, especially after what the Koreas have seen in Japan since the Sendai earthquake. Bear in mind, though, there is no evidence that an eruption is coming “within years” are some of the articles imply.

* Apparently Kim Jong Il calls Baekdu his “sacred birthplace”. Go figure.

New Zealand: One of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes, Mt. Ruapehu, is getting a much needed upgrade to its monitoring systems. A major challenge on Ruapehu, which generates frequent lahars both during and inbetween eruptive periods, is that monitoring equipment can easily get damaged. This prevents much-needed information about mudflows or other activity from getting to authorities, much like what happened during Ruapehu’s last eruption in 2007. The new monitoring equipment will be in a location less prone to being destroyed by explosions or lahars and will send data directly to the ski areas on the slopes of the volcano, hopefully allow for more time to evacuate the slopes. The crater lake at Ruapehu has entered a new heating cycle according to the latest GNS report and steam plumes have been reported recently at the volcano as well, but the volcanic alert level remains at 1.

Top left: A shot of the crater area at Ruapehu after the September 2007 eruption, showing the lahars generated with volcanic material mixed with crater lake water, snow and ice at the summit. Click here to see the original image, courtesy of Geonet/GNS Science.


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