The origin of Paektu volcano and associated magmatism in N Korea

Theme: Solid Earth Dynamics

Primary Supervisor:

Eleanor Jennings

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, BBK

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Secondary Supervisor:

James Hammond

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, BBK

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Project Description:

Mt Paektu, an intraplate volcano located between N Korea and China, is the largest and most active volcano in N Korea and is of important cultural significance in the country. It has a history of violent eruptions, most notably the caldera-forming VEI 7 “Millenium eruption” in 946 AD, one of the largest historic eruptions on Earth. An associated SE-trending chain of other, less well known volcanoes exists, perhaps reaching as far as the coast. The presence of a major eruptive centre at Paektu and the associated volcanoes is surprising given the lack of an obvious mechanism responsible for magma production in the region: the volcanoes are far from the subduction zone to the east, and obvious evidence of rifting or a mantle plume is lacking. Potential fluid loss from a deep slab, or the presence of a gap in the westward-dipping subducting Pacific plate, have been. Partial melt is currently present beneath Paektu and neighbouring volcanoes. Petrology, geochemistry and geochronology offer alternative sources of information on the origin of these magmatic systems that can be interpreted alongside geophysical data. Most previous petrological study has focussed on the rhyolites of the millennium eruption and crustal processing of the magma.

The project will look at a wider range of magmas Paektu and associated volcanoes in North Korea with a goal of understanding their mantle origins and subsequent crustal processing. The samples include primitive compositions that are more useful for understanding the mantle origins of the system. Samples will be analysed by various lab techniques (EPMA, LA-ICP-MS), and thermodynamic modelling will aid interpretation. Geochronology may be carried out, to test whether an age-progression through the chain is present. The study will begin with pre-existing sample sets, including both new and unpublished existing analyses. It is hoped that the student may have the opportunity to be involved in fieldwork.

Policy Impact of Research:

This project contributes to our understanding of a little-understood magmatic system which is important to study from a natural hazards perspective, and is part of a unique and diplomatically-important international collaboration.

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