North Korea has been testing its nuclear bombs along with its ICBM’s at a rapid pace to match the increasing belligerence of its dictator, Kim Jong Un.

However, North Korea’s top scientists did not factor in the geologic consequences of their continued testing.

A mountain in North Korea believed to have served as the site of five of the rogue regime’s nuclear tests — including Sunday’s supposed hydrogen bomb explosion — is at risk of collapsing and leaking radiation into the region, a Chinese scientist said Monday.

Researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province, examined the Punggye-ri site and said they “were confident” underground detonations were occurring underneath the mountain, South China Morning Post reported. Wang Naiyan, a former chairman of the China Nuclear Society and a researcher on China’s own nuclear weapons program, said another test underneath the mountain can cause an “environmental disaster” if the site caves in on itself, allowing radiation to escape and “drift across the region,” including into China.

“We call it ‘taking the roof off.’ If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things.” Wang told the South China Morning Post.

Any geologist will tell you that extreme heat and pressure will cause enormous changes in the surrounding rock. In the case of a nuclear explosion, the rock immediately surrounding the detonation will entirely vaporize, forming a cavity. Adjacent to the detonation zone, there will be areas of fractured, weakened, and irreversibly strained rock. As North Korea has tested 5 bombs, the area under that mountain must look like the geologic equivalent of Swiss cheese.

In fact, preliminary analysis of the area around the site show troubling signs of instability.

38 North said lower resolution satellite images posted on its site appear to show numerous landslides and surface disturbances in the mountain’s gravel and broken rock fields. The website is a clearing house for North Korea analysis and is part of the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

While it might be fun to think of Pyongyang self-irradiating into oblivion, it appears that there is an additional component to this scenario that may cause real man-made global climate change. The testing may be impacting the magma chambers associated with a volcano named Mount Paektu (located on the border of North Korea and China).

The rare international scientific collaboration revealed that the magma chamber plumbing system beneath this mountain is far from dead; seismic imaging suggests that it has a fiery soul that’s tens of kilometres across and several kilometres deep. Someday, all that magma is going to burst forth at the surface. The key question here, as always, is when?

Well, bizarrely, thanks to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, it might be any day now. According to a separate study conducted over the last couple of years, the country’s underground weapons tests are sending powerful pressure waves towards Paektu’s massive magma chamber. This pressure is essentially being transferred to the magma, and at a certain point, it could cause the rock surrounding the partly liquid doom to crack, and thereby trigger an eruption.

The last massive eruption of Mt. Pektu was hundreds of years ago, but was powerful enough to spew debris as far as Japan. The mountain has been long dormant, but a series of earthquake swarms between 2002 and 2005 indicated that the magma may be rising again.

As a reminder of what a mountain collapse can look like, I turn to 1980’s Mt. St. Helens:

Imagine this, with airborne debris mixed with radioactive particulates.

With the recent geologic input, no wonder the China seems to be taking a more robust interest in containing and controlling its neighbor to the north.

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