Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shinmoedake Volcano Erupts in Japan

By Jessica Aston

After 52 years, the Shinmoedake Volcano unleashes its second eruption of 2011.

On March 13th, 2011 in south-west Japan, the Shinmoedake volcano in the Kirishima range erupts after two weeks of no activity.

In January 2011, the Shinmoedake volcano erupted for the first time in 52 years - sending ash and rock flying for miles. Thousands were told to temporarily evacuate the area, but the volcano seemed to settle and there was only mild activity until the 1st of March, where it ceased any activity.

However, the volcano erupted again - sending ash and rock 4 kilometres into the air, creating a giant ash cloud against the blue sky of the south-west. The Shinmoedake volcano is 4,689-feet tall, and towers over many communities.

An official from the Kirishima range has said it is not immediately known if the volcano is a direct result of the 8.9 earthquake and the following aftershocks on the 11th of March that has triggered the volcano to burst into life again, however most fear that if the shifting tectonic plates are the cause, the volcano situation could worsen very quickly.

January Shinmoedake Eruption

In January, the eruption of ash and cloud triggered an ash warning for places above 25,000 feet, and the areas 2km around the volcano were evacuated.

The eruption also led to the cancellation of international flights, and also of nearby highways and railways. A Level 3 warning was issued for the areas around the Shinmoedake volcano, which remained until its second eruption in March.

Shinmoedake Volcano - BreakingNews

Future Dangers

When the volcano in question first erupted, it was reported that there was no magma movement beneath the surface, and that means it is unlikely to lead to a full-scale eruption. However, volcanologists are now worried that the moving tectonic plates have forced magma to build in Shinmoedake and will cause a premature eruption that was unpredicted. Out of all the volcanoes in the Kirishima range, the Shinmoedake volcano is the most active.

The History of the Kirishima Range

The Kirishima Range has had numerous eruptions for hundreds of years, the first ones can be traced back to 742. More recently, in 1959 there was a phreatic explosion, and then a mild eruption in 1991 after a series of earthquakes in the area. Also in August 2008, there was another minor eruption - however, this was not from Shinmoedake.

From this information it seems the range has been affected previously from earthquakes - whether the 8.9 earthquake diaster will lead to a chain reaction, it is yet to be discovered.


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