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500,000-Year Extinct Weishan Volcano in China Appears to be Recharging

Mika Castro

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  • The Weishan volcano in China has not erupted for 500,000 years and was thought to be extinct.
  • However, a team of scientists discovered magma chambers recharging beneath the volcano.
  • Weishan volcano is part of the Wudalianchi Volcanic Field with 14 volcanoes. It is linked to the massive and destructive Changbai Volcano.
  • The Chinese earthquake administration officials are skeptical of the findings saying they have not detected significant seismic activity in the area.

A volcano that has not erupted for 500,000 years may erupt once again. This is the warning issued by Chinese geophysicist Zhang Haijiang and his team from the University of Science and Technology of China.

Located in the northeastern part of the country, the Weishan volcano is a part of the massive Wudalianchi Volcanic Field which is home to 14 other volcanoes, some of which are destructive. Earlier studies has assessed that the underground volcanic chambers in these volcanic field are interconnected to each other. The last eruption from the Wudalianchi Volcanic Field was around 350 years ago in the 18th century.

The Weishan Volcano at present, with magma chambers underneath that is double its crater depth.

One of the volcanoes that is the main concern of scientists is the Changbai volcano, located south of Weishan volcano. Weishan and Changbai volcanoes are connected via “secondary mantle convection” according to Haijiang. This means that activity in one volcano may cause tectonic plates to shift and trigger the other volcanoes. The last eruption of Changbai caused quite a destruction.

Map showing the distance of Weishan and Changbai mountain

Changbai volcano last erupted in 946AD which was one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions ever recorded. The ashfall zone spanned almost the entire upper hemisphere of the earth, from Japan to Greenland. And so the scientists are concerned with their recent findings.

The diagram from the published paper of Hajiang and team showing the upper and middle magma chambers beneath Weishan volcano

In the paper published by Hajiang and his team, they were able to determine that there were two magma chambers beneath Weishan volcano. They further reported that the magma chambers are 15% full to capacity with molten magma. Most volcanoes erupt when their magma chambers are 40% full. They further said a close eye on the region may be needed as seismic activities might trigger the volcanic eruption.

Despite this finding, Xu Jiandong, the director of the volcanic research division at the China Earthquake Administration in Beijing is not convinced.

He said:

“We have not detected any sign of active magma chambers under Laohei and Huoshao. If there really are huge magma chambers in the area, we should have detected some related seismic activities – when the lower chamber recharges the upper one, there should be some movement. But so far, after decades of monitoring on the site, we’ve picked up almost nothing. The whole area has been very, very quiet.”

Perhaps, only time will tell if the three centuries of silence from Wudalianchi volcanic field will be broken by the eruption of Weishan volcano.

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