Recent unrest of Changbaishan volcano, northeast China: A precursor of a future eruption?



[1] Over 12 years of continuous monitoring of Changbaishan volcano in the border region of China and North Korea by means of volcanic seismicity, ground deformation, and volcanic gas geochemistry yields new evidence for magmatic unrest of the volcano between 2002 and 2006. In this so-called “active period,” the frequency of volcanic earthquakes increased by about 2 orders of magnitude compared to that of the background “inactive periods.” The active period was also accompanied by ground inflation, high values of CO2, He, H2, and high ratios of N2/O2 and 3He/4He in volcanic gases released from three hot springs near the caldera rim. The monitoring evidence implies pressurization of the magma chamber, possibly caused by incremental magma recharge. The ground deformation data from both GPS and precise leveling are modeled to suggest the corresponding deformation source is at 2–60 km depth beneath the volcano's summit, where earthquake swarms were detected in 2002 and 2003. Our findings suggest that the magma chamber beneath Changbaishan volcano has awakened and resumed activity after remaining dormant since AD 1903. There is an urgent need to keep close watch on this active and very hazardous volcano in northeast China.