One of the most iconic and perfectly proportioned mountains in the world, Mt. Fuji in Japan is “under great pressure” according to experts, and on the cusp of blowing its lid.
The recent eruption of Mt. Ontake has experts severely worried that more of Japan’s 110 active volcanoes could blow at any moment with little or no warning. Mt. Fuji, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Asian country, is at the top of a list of 47 peaks most at risk for eruption compiled by the Japan Meteorological Agency.
If the 12,388 foot high Mt. Fuji does blow, its proximity to Tokyo is extremely worrisome. Only 90 miles from the large city, Tokyo is still recovering from the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake according to LiveScience.
Last July, a team of scientists from France and Japan issued a paper in which they warned that Mt. Fuji is “under great pressure” as a result of the Tohoku earthquake and at an elevated risk of erupting, according to the Daily Telegraph. Seismic waves produced by the magnitude-9 earthquake produced what was described as an ultrasound of the Earth’s interior. Those waves were studied by a team of researchers headed by Florent Brenguier. They found that powerful stresses caused by the tremors were directly beneath several volcanoes, including the peak of Mount Fuji.
The scientists released a statement regarding their findings.
“Mount Fuji, which exhibits the greatest anomaly, is probably under great pressure, although no eruption has yet followed the Tohoku-oki earthquake. The 6.4-magnitude seism that occurred four days after the 2011 quake confirms the critical state of the volcano in terms of pressure.”
The last time Mt. Fuji erupted was in 1707, just 49 days after an 8.7 magnitude Japanese earthquake. As a result of the last eruption, the profile of the mountain was altered considerably. Burning cinders rained down on the towns nearest Fuji and all of Tokyo was blanketed in a thick layer of ash.
Ever since then, Mt. Fuji has been quiet. Some might say, “too quiet.” Pressure beneath the mighty mountain has been building over time, and a study by Japan’s National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention indicated that the pressure in the magma chamber beneath Mount Fuji could be much, much higher than in 1707.
If Fuji does blow – and at this point, according to most experts, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” – a Japanese government study has warned that over 750,000 people may be forced to flee their homes if Fuji merely matches the 1707 eruption. All road and train links between Tokyo and Nagoya, Osaka in western Japan would be cut off via lava flows. Ash storms will descend on Tokyo, smothering the city and causing numerous buildings to crumble under the weight of the ash.
So when will Mt. Fuji erupt? Shigeru Suto, a volcanologist at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology says it’s anyone’s guess.
“Mount Fuji has always suffered pressure from the Pacific tectonic plate, and that has not changed. What will happen on the mountain is just impossible to predict.”
[image via giantbomb]