Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Japan has heightened monitoring on the Island of Kyushu, in the wake of a 6.4 Earthquake. Kyushu is a highly volcanic region which includes a the Aira Caldera and Mount Aso, VEI-7 volcanoes. The last major VEI-7 eruption, the eruption of Mount Tambora, is associated with the year without a Summer, a period of widespread famine and crop failure which occurred in 1816.
Japan earthquake: thousands flee fearing volcanoes and aftershocks
At least 44,000 people evacuated following 6.4-magnitude quake that killed at least nine.
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from earthquake-hit southern Japan as dozens of aftershocks struck and officials monitored nearby volcanoes for signs of activity.
A total of 44,000 people were evacuated late on Thursday in the town of Mashiki after a magnitude-6.4 earthquake collapsed buildings and damaged other infrastructure. Nine people have been confirmed dead, ranging in age from 29 to 94. A further eight are in serious condition, and more than 850 were injured.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has warned there are likely to be strong aftershocks for the next week and advised people to stay away from any buildings that look unstable.
There are also concerns about volcanic activity in the wake of the quake. The island of Kyushu, where the earthquake happened, is a highly volcanic area. A level 2 warning – meaning people should not approach a volcano’s crater – has been in place for Asosan in Kumamoto prefecture on the island since November 2015.
If, and this is a big if, this situation develops into a Tambora scale explosive eruption, the results could be devastating, both for Japan, and potentially for the entire Northern Hemisphere. Modern transportation may mitigate some of the effects, by allowing food from the Southern Hemisphere to be supplied to regions experiencing crop failures. But the resulting spike in food prices would be likely to cause severe hardship for the world’s poor.
Update (EW): Added information about Mount Aso / Asosan