Japan may be approaching year three in terms of length of time removed from the catastrophic and devastating earthquake that prompted a tsunami in Japan, and took nearly 16,000 lives. Now though, in the years following the devastation of the initial earthquake, and tsunami Japan is facing a new, and even riskier problem.
Recently Mount Ontake erupted, and the blast left 56 dead. And as it turns out, that may have a big part to do with the fact that the earthquake from 2011 left the framework, and the earth, more volatile than ever before. “The 2011 quake convulsed all of underground Japan quite sharply, and due to that influence Japan’s volcanoes may also become much more active,” said Toshitsugu Fujii, who is a volcanologist and professor at the University of Tokyo. “We can reasonably expect that there will be a number of large eruptions in the near future,” he went on to say.
The eruption last month though, while completely unexpected at the time, should be expected moving forward. However, the extreme nature of the events is something that will remain difficult to predict, as well as when and where the events will take place. The truth is that the earthquake simply primed the underworking of the earth, which allowed the volcanoes to become primed, and ready to erupt at any given time.
Mount Fuji, for example, is long overdue for an eruption. The last time that the volcano erupted was in 1707, and up to that point, the volcano had done so every 30 years. Raising questions, but also reminding residents that the volcano is at an even more heightened risk as result of the earthquake.
Toshitsugu Fujii said that “It is simply impossible to predict an eruption over the next 30 to 40 years,” citing an extreme lack of predictability. An eruption would have additional ramifications though, as well. Japanese regulators have argued that two nuclear reactors are safe from the volcanic eruption over the next several decades – but prominent scientists disagree with their analysis. They cite the lack of predictability within the volcanoes, combined with the fact that should an eruption occur – the facilities would be impossible to reach as being the primary reasons for this dispute with what regulators had argued.
All of this ties back to the instability that the country has felt since the earthquake in 2011. It leaves the next several decades in question, in terms of what is safe, and what is not. Figuring out how to handle the reactors, as well as the communities that surround these unpredictable volcanoes, is something that will take center stage moving forward in Japan.