Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tatun volcanoes, Taipei

The capital of Taiwan, Taipei, sits close to the convergence of three tectonic plates - the Eurasian, Phillipine Sea and South China Sea plates. The Eurasian and Phillipine Sea plates are rapidly colliding at more than 8 cm per year. The high and narrow mountain range that runs north to south along Taiwan (a landmark of Formosa - the beautiful island) is one consequence. Volcanism is another.

The Tatun volcanoes shown here are located within the Taipei metropolitan area, 15km north of the capital and west of Keelung. Known to have been active through the Pleistocene epoch of the Quaternary, they have long been assumed to be extinct, but recent studies suggest they may simply be dormant, with hot springs, fumaroles, and swarm-type seismicity all suggestive of magma still present beneath. Although forming beautiful mountains, more than 1000m above the nearby sea level, these volcanoes may pose a yet-unrecognised threat to the nearby population of more than 6.7 million people. In view of the potential volcanic threat, some have also raised questions about the suitability of the area as host for the two nuclear power stations sited close by.

Image: Tatun volcanoes, credit: James Ko Chun Huang, Dept. of Earth Sciences, NCKU, Tainan Taiwan

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