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Extinct volcano wakes up, could cause catastrophic eruption

Sunday, June 9th 2019, 1:12 pm - Significant global impacts are expected if this volcano erupts

A geophysicist is warning that Bolshaya Udina, a formerly extinct volcano in the eastern corner of Russia, is showing signs of activity with a 50 per cent chance of erupting at any moment and could have catastrophic global impacts.

Ivan Koulakov is a geophysicist from Russia's A.A. Trofimuk Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics and recently led a study into this volcano and believes that it should be reclassified as active.

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Between 1999 and late 2017 approximately 100 weak seismic events were detected underneath the volcano, and an "anomalous increase" seismicity began in October 2017. By February 2019 around 2,400 seismic events were recorded and a 4.3 magnitude earthquake struck this past February, which was the strongest seismic event to ever occur in this region.

Four temporary seismic monitoring stations were installed around Bolshaya Udina and 559 seismic events indicate that there is an "elliptical cluster" of seismic activity, which may indicate that the presence of magma intrusions with a high content of melts and fluids.

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The cluster of seismic events from this volcano was also connected with the Tolud zone, which is a region just south of the volcano that is believed to contain magma in the Earth's lower crust. Seismic movements created a new pathway connecting the Tolud zone to Bolshaya Udina, and is now feeding the volcano significant amounts of magma.

VOLCANO wiki cc A view of view Ushkovsky, Tolbachik, Bezymianny, Zimina, and Udina. Oblique view taken on November 16, 2013 from ISS. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Bezymianny is a volcano within this region that shares structural similarities to Bolshaya Udina and was considered extinct before it dramatically erupted in 1956.

Koulakov states that there is about a 50 per cent chance that Bolshaya Udina will erupt, which could impact nearby villages, interfere with international air travel, and temporarily change the climate in various parts of the world. There is also the possibility that the volcano will quietly release energy over the upcoming months, which would not have significant impacts.

The study notes that this volcano is difficult to monitor because it is far from permanent seismic stations. Koulakov says that more monitoring stations are needed to accurately determine how dangerous this volcano is due to its high level of unpredictability.

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