Long-revered and much-climbed, Japan’s Mount Fuji looks like it’s ready to blow it’s top after more than 300 years of dormancy. A new study by a team of French and Japanese researchers reveals that an increase in tectonic pressure from the massive 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 and caused the Fukushima meltdown has left Fuji in prime condition for an eruption.
According to lead author of the study, Florent Brenguier of the Institute of Earth Sciences in France, their research doesn’t say that Fuji will actually erupt, nor when it might happen – but it does show the mountain is in “a critical state.” The team used 800 seismic sensors to study volcanoes in Japan to find out how they react to seismic waves such as those generated by earthquakes or explosions. The results allow them to better evaluate the risk of volcanic eruptions and might even allow scientists to predict when eruptions might happen. The researchers also looked at “seismic noise” that let them create a sort of “ultrasound” of the Earth’s crust, the Huffington Post reports. What they found was that the underground regions that saw the greatest disruptions from the earthquake weren’t at the epicenters, but under volcanic areas and particularly Mount Fuji.
“The volcanic regions are the ones where the fluids trapped in the rock – boiling water, gas, liquid magma, which cause an eruption where they rise to the surface – exert the greatest pressure,” Brenguier told The Guardian. “The seismic waves add to this pressure, causing even more disturbance.”
An eruption of Mount Fuji could be big trouble for the millions of people who live near it, including 8 million people in nearby Tokyo who would be affected by hot volcanic ash. Earlier in 2014 local governments in the area immediately surrounding the volcano developed an evacuation plan to get 1.2 million people out of their homes in case of an eruption, which would cover the area with lava.