North Korea's nuclear efforts could have unexpected consequences — namely a volcanic eruption — experts have warned, via the Yonhap News Agency Wednesday. The North Korean tests could trigger an eruption at Mount Baekdu, a volcano located near the site, warned a team led by Hong Tae-kyung, a professor of seismology at Seoul's Yonsei University, in a paper.
"Strong ground motions induce large dynamic stress changes that may disturb the magma chamber of a volcano, thus accelerating the volcanic activity," the paper published by Nature stated. "An underground nuclear explosion test near an active volcano constitutes a direct threat to the volcano."
Hong worked on the paper with three other experts, including Eunseo Choi, who works for the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis. Baekdu is more than 9,000 feet high and is placed along the border between North Korea and China — just 72 miles from North Korea's Punggye-ri proving grounds, where it is believed Pyongyang could be prepared to carry out a fifth underground nuclear test, according to the Telegraph.
The underground tests create man-made earthquakes. The volcano last erupted in 1903, but experts have warned that signs have suggested the magma chamber is expanding and that a detonation could trigger an eruption. "North Korean underground nuclear explosions with magnitudes of 5.0–7.6 may induce overpressure in the magma chamber," which could set off an eruption, the paper stated. The last time an eruption occurred at Baekdu it was "one of the largest explosive events in human history," the paper warned.
Following a deadly 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, experts from North and South Korea discussed activity at Mount Baekdu but the two sides have not held further discussions. The mountain is considered an important landmark to North Korea, with propaganda stating that Kim Jong Il — the late ruler and father of current leader Kim Jong Un — was divinely born on Baekdu in 1942, accompanied by a double rainbow and a glowing heavenly new star, according to CBS News. Soviet records show, however, that he was born in the Siberian village of Vyatskoye.