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Japanese Researchers Conduct Artificial Earthquake In Volcano To Improve Prediction Of Volcanic Eruptions

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Researchers from Japan’s Tohoku University, along with officials from the country’s meteorological agency, triggered an artificial earthquake on a northern Japan mountain to obtain new clues of a volcanic eruption in the future.

The artificial quake took place on Mount Zao, which is 1,841 meters (6,040 feet) in height and straddling Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures. It is an active volcano exhibiting more tremors since the March 2011 Japan earthquake, recorded the most powerful to ever hit the country.

Conducting a site survey before dawn Thursday, the team detonated about 441 pounds of dynamite inside the 131-feet-deep hole dug on the side of the mountain. They poured water inside the hole, which was then spewed out with equal force from the simulated blast.

Around 150 seismometers positioned on Mount Zao measured the seismic waves produced from the artificial quake. Through water, seismic waves travel more slowly, enabling scientists to analyze data via hot water pools and pathways of up to around 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) underground.

Volcanic eruptions occur when magma touches a surface that contains water, which then evaporates and leads to a volcanic explosion.

Professor Satoshi Miura of Tohoku University said that it is key to find out the locations of hot water in order to predict where the next steam-blast explosion will likely take place.

The magnitude-9 Japan quake that happened on Mar. 11, 2011 shook the northeastern region and led to a massive tsunami. Parts of the world as far as Antarctica’s ice sheet felt the effects of the great quake, and debris from the tsunami continued to reach North American beaches after two years.

Affected residents of Japan are still recovering, with radioactive water recently found leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The nuclear facility suffered a level 7 nuclear meltdown post-tsunami, and until today many of the country’s nuclear reactors remain closed due to more rigorous seismic safety standards.

Based on Japanese government estimates, total damages from the earthquake and tsunami were at 300 billion dollars or about 25 trillion yen.

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