Bulletin of Volcanology

, 75:706 | Cite as

Review of eruptive activity at Tianchi volcano, Changbaishan, northeast China: implications for possible future eruptions

  • Haiquan WeiEmail author
  • Guoming Liu
  • James Gill
Review Article


One of the largest explosive eruptions in the past several thousand years occurred at Tianchi volcano, also known as Changbaishan, on the China–North Korea border. This historically active polygenetic central volcano consists of three parts: a lower basaltic shield, an upper trachytic composite cone, and young comendite ash flows. The Millennium Eruption occurred between 938 and 946 ad, and was preceded by two smaller and chemically different rhyolitic pumice deposits. There has been at least one additional, small eruption in the last three centuries. From 2002 to 2005, seismicity, deformation, and the helium and hydrogen gas contents of spring waters all increased markedly, causing regional concern. We attribute this event to magma recharge or volatile exhalation or both at depth, followed by two episodes of addition of magmatic fluids into the overlying aquifer without a phreatic eruption. The estimated present magma accumulation rate is too low by itself to account for the 2002–2005 unrest. The most serious volcanic hazards are ash eruption and flows, and lahars. The available geological information and volcano monitoring data provide a baseline for comprehensive assessment of future episodes of unrest and possible eruptive activity.


Changbaishan Tianchi volcano 2002–2005 unrest Magma replenishment and eruption rates Aquifer Hazards assessment 



This work was partly sponsored by the Natural Science Foundation of China (41172304). Colleagues in the Earthquake Administration of Jilin Province helped with the field work. Frank Ramos shared his unpublished geochemical data. We gratefully acknowledge discussion with Jiandong Xu, Jianping Wu, Qingliang Wang, Qingfu Yang, Ke Li, and Xiaodong Pan, and review of parts of this paper by J. Biggs, J. Gottsmann, D. Hilton, B. Jicha, M. Nakagawa, F. Ramos, S. Sparks, R. Stone, and F. Wu. We thank R. Tilling, C. Newhall, and AE S. Self for their very helpful reviews that improved the manuscript substantially.


  1. Basu AR, Wang JW, Huang WK (1991) Major element, REE, and Pb, Nd and Sr isotopic geochemistry of Cenozoic volcanic rocks of eastern China: implications for their origin from suboceanic-type mantle reservoirs. Earth Planet Sc Lett 105:149–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chu KS, Tsuji Y, Baag CE, Kang TS (2011) Volcanic eruptions of Mt. Baekdu (Changbai) occurring in historical times. Bull Earthq Res Inst Univ Tokyo Vol 86:11–27Google Scholar
  3. Chun JH, Cheong DK, Lee YJ, Kwon YI, Kim BC (2006) Stratigraphic implications as a time marker of the B-J tephra erupted from Baegdusan volcano discovered in the marine cores of East Sea/Japan Sea during late Pleistocene. Jour Geol Soc Korea 42(1):31–42 (in Korean with English abstract)Google Scholar
  4. Cui D, Wang Q, Li K, Wang W, Hu Y (2007) Analysis of recent deformation of Changbaishan Tianchi volcano. Chin J Geophys 50(6):1515–1524Google Scholar
  5. Davidson J, DeSilva S (2000) Composite volcanoes. In: Sigurdsson H (ed) Encyclopedia of volcanoes. Academic Press, London, pp 663–682Google Scholar
  6. De Natale G, Troise C, Pingue F et al. (2006) The Campi Flegrei caldera: unrest mechanism and hazards. In: Troise C, De Natale G and Kilburn CRF (eds) Mechanism of activity and unrest at large caldera. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, pp 269:25–45Google Scholar
  7. Duan YH, Zhang XK, Yang ZX, Zhang CK, Zhao JR, Pan JS (2003) Crystalline basement structure of Changbaishan Tianchi volcanic area. Seismol Geol 25(3):501–508 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  8. Dunlap CE (1996) Physical, chemical, and temporal relations among products of the 11th century eruption of Baitoushan, China/North Korea. PhD Thesis, University of California Santa Cruz: 1–215Google Scholar
  9. Gao QW (2004) Volcanic hydrothermal activities and gas-releasing characteristics of the Tianchi Lake region, Changbai mountains. Acta Geosci Sin 25(3):345–350 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  10. Gao L, Shangguan Z, Wei H, Wu C (2007) Recent geochemical variation of the hot-spring gases from the Tianchi Volcano, Changbai Mountains, Northeast China. Earthq Res Chin 21(2):179–188Google Scholar
  11. Garin NG (1949) From diaries round-the-world travel over Korea, Manchuria, Liaotung peninsula. Chapter 3: Studies at Pektusan volcano. Geografgiz, Moscow, pp. 162–193Google Scholar
  12. Gill J, Dunlap C, McCurry M (1992) Large-volume, mid-latitude, Cl-rich eruption during 600–1000 AD: Baitoushan, China. American Geophysical Union Chapman Conference of Climate, Volcanism, and Global Change. Hilo, HawaiiGoogle Scholar
  13. Guo ZF, Liu JQ, Fan QC et al (2005) Source of volcanic ash in the sediments of Sihailongwan maar lake, NE China, and its significance. Acta Petrol Sin 21(1):251–255 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  14. Halm D, Hilton DR, Cho M, Wei H, Kim KR (2008) Geothermal He and CO2 variations at Changbaishan intra-plate volcano (NE China) and the nature of the sub-continental lithospheric mantle. Geophys Res Lett. doi: 10.1029/2008GL035955 Google Scholar
  15. Hayakawa Y, Koyoma M (1998) Dates of two major eruptions from Towada and Baitoushan in the 10 century. Bull Volcanol Soc Japan 43:404–405 (in Japanese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  16. Horn S, Schmincke HU (2000) Volatile emission during the eruption of Baitoushan volcano (China/North Korea) ca. 969 AD. Bull Volcanol 61:537–555Google Scholar
  17. Hu YX, Wang QL, Cui DX, Li K, Zheng CF (2004) Joint inversion of geometric deformation in Changbaishan volcanic area. J Geod Geodyn 24(4):90–94 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  18. Hu YX, Wang QL, Cui DX, Wang WP, Li K, Zheng CF (2007) On active state of Changbaishan-Tianchi Volcano from deformation data. J Geod Geodyn 27(5):144–151Google Scholar
  19. Ikehara K, Kikkawa K, Chun JH (2004) Origin and correlation of three tephras that erupted during oxygen isotope stage 3 found in cores from the Yamato Basin, Central Japan Sea. Quat Res 43(3):201–212 (in Japanese with English abstract)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jellinek AM, Depaolo DJ (2003) A model for the origin of large silicic magma chambers: precursors of caldera-forming eruptions. Bull Volcanol 65:363–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ji FJ, Li JP, Zheng RZ (1999) The preliminary study of TL chronology for recent eruptive materials in Changbaishan Tianchi volcano. Geol Rev 45:282–286, SupGoogle Scholar
  22. Jin BL, Zhang XY (1994) Researching volcanic geology in Changbai Mt Northeast Korea. Nation Education Press, Changchun (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  23. Jwa YJ, Lee JI, Xiangshen Z (2003) A study on the eruption ages of Backdusan: 1. Radiocarbon (14C) age for charcoal and wood samples. J Geol Soc Korea 39(3):347–357 (in Korean with English abstract)Google Scholar
  24. Legrand D, Calahorrano A, Guillier B et al (2002) Stress tensor analysis of the 1998–1999 tectonic swarm of northern Quito related to the volcanic swarm of Guagua Pichincha volcano, Ecuador. Tectonophys 344:15–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lei J, Zhao D (2005) P-wave tomography and origin of the Changbai intraplate volcano in northeast Asia. Tectonophys 397:281–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Li JT (1998) Synopsis of research of volcanic disaster concerning Changbaishan Mountain. Seismol Res of Northeast China 14(2):59–66 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  27. Liu JQ (1999) Volcanoes of China. Science Press, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  28. Liu RX (2000) Active volcanoes in China. Seismological Press, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  29. Liu RX, Wei HQ, Tang J et al (1996) Progress of the study on Tianchi Volcano, Changbaishan, China. Seismol Geomagn Obs Res 17(4):2–11Google Scholar
  30. Liu RX, Wei HQ, Li JT (1998) The latest eruptions from Tianchi volcano, Changbaishan. Science Publisher, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  31. Liu X, Sui WG, Xiang TY, Wang XK (2004) Holocene volcanic activity and their features in Tianchi area, Changbaishan Mountains. Quat Sci 24(6):638–644 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  32. Liu GM, Zhang HR, Kong QJ (2006) Analysis of the seismic activiity at the Changbaishan Tianchi Volcano. Seismol Geol 28(3):503–508 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  33. Liu G, Pang J, Qi W (2008) Application of gas chromatography in measuring of hot spring gas. Seismo Res of Northeast China 24(3):62–66 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  34. Machida H, Arai F (1992) Atlas of Tephras in and around Japan. Tokyo Press, Tokyo (in Japanese)Google Scholar
  35. Machida H, Moriwaki H, Zhao DC (1990) The recent major eruption of Changbai Volcano and its environmental effects. Geogr rep of Tokyo Metrop Univ 25Google Scholar
  36. Newhall CG, Dzurisin D (1988) Historical unrest at large calderas of the world. US Geological Survey, RestonGoogle Scholar
  37. Nishimoto J, Nakagawa M, Miyamoto T, Taniguchi H (2010) Magma system of 10th centure eruption of Baitoushan volcano: inferred from petrological and geochemical characteristics. Earth science of Baitoushan volcano and its adjacent area. CNEAS Monogr Ser 4:71–94 (in Japanese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  38. Okuno M, Yatsuzuka S, Nakamara T et al (2010) A review of recent chronological studies on the 10th centure eruption of Baitoushan volcano, China/North Korea, Earth science of Baitoushan volcano and its adjacent area. CNEAS Monogr Ser 4:103–112 (in Japanese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  39. Oppenheimer C (2003) Ice core and palaeoclimatic evidence for the timing and nature of the great mid-13th century volcanic eruption. Int J Climatol 23:417–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ozawa T, Taniguchi H (2010) Crustal deformation related to seismic activity under the Changbaishan volcano by SAR interferometry. Earth Science of Baitoushan Volcano and its adjacent area. CNEAS Monogr Ser 41:143–158 (in Japanese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  41. Ramos FC, Gill JB, Wolff J, Rodgers SL (2008) Connecting high-silica, rhyolite-hosted phenocrysts to potential crystal mush intrusive complements: insights from Baitoushan Volcano and Valles Caldera. Geol Soc Am Abstr Program 40(1):74Google Scholar
  42. Ri D (1993) Paektu volcano. In: Geology of Korea, Chapter 3, Section 7. Foreign Languages Books Publishing House, Pyongyang, pp. 330–349Google Scholar
  43. Shangguan ZG, Zhao CP, Gao L (2006) Carbon isotopic compositions of the methane derived from magma at the active volcanic regions in China. Acta Petrol Sin 22(06):1458–1464 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  44. Shi LB, Chen XD, Yang QF, Wei HQ, Lin CY (2005) Petrochemistry of pumices of various colors produced by the eruption of Changbaishan Tianchi Volcano at 1000 years ago. Seismol Geol 27(1):73–82 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  45. Siebert L, Simkin T, Kimberly P (2010) Volcanoes of the world. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  46. Singer BS, Jicha BR, He H, Zhu R (2011) 40Ar/39Ar evidence for a 17 Ka geomagnetic field excursion at Changbaishan volcano, NE China. EOS, AGU, GP13A-04Google Scholar
  47. Song J, Hetland EA, Wu FT, Zhang X, Liu G, Yang Z (2008) P-wave velocity structure under the Changbaishan volcanic region, NE China, from wide-angle reflection and refraction data. Tectonophys 433:127–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stone R (2010) Is China’s riskiest volcano stirring or merely biding its time? Science 329:498–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stone R (2011) Vigil at North Korea’s Mount Doom. Science 334:584–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tang DP (1990) Petrology of Baitoushan volcanic rocks in Jilin Province. Geosci J Grad School 4:64–78 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  51. Tang J, Deng QH, Zhao GZ et al (2001) Electric conductivity and magma chamber at the Tianchi volcano area in Changbaishan Mountain. Seismol Geol 23:191–200 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  52. Taniguchi H (2004) 10th century great eruption of Baitoushan volcano, Northeast China, and its historic effect. CNEAS Monogr Ser 16:1–215 (in Japanese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  53. Taniguchi H, Himino Y (2012) Volcanic crisis of Baitoushan volcano—correlation between the eruption of Baitoushan volcano and the mega thrust earthquakes in Japan. Presentation on the 5.23 meeting of Volcanic Society of JapanGoogle Scholar
  54. Wan JL, Zheng DW (2000) Several notable problems on dating of young volcanic rocks by FT method—illustrated by dating of Changbaishan volcanic rocks. Seismol Geol 22(Suppl):19–24Google Scholar
  55. Wang JP (1987) Annals of Changbaishan. Jilin Press of Language and History, Changchun (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  56. Wang F, Chen WJ, Peng ZC, Li Q (2001) Activity of Changbaishan Tianchi Volcano since late Pleistocene: the constrain from geochronology of high precision U-series TIMS method. Geo Chem 30(1):88–94Google Scholar
  57. Wei HQ (2010) Magma up-moving process within the magma prism beneath the Changbaishan Volcanoes. Earth Sci Front 17(1):11–23 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  58. Wei HQ, Liu RX, Li XD (1997) Ignimbrite eruptions from Tianchi Volcano and their climate effect. Earth Sci Front 4:263–266 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  59. Wei HQ, Song SR, Yang QF, Liu X (1998) The recent erupted materials from Tianchi volcano, Changbaishan. In: Liu RX, Wei HQ, Li JT (eds) The latest eruptions from Tianchi volcano. Changbaishan Science Publisher, Beijing, pp 49–82 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  60. Wei HQ, Liu RX, Fan QC, Yang QF, Li N (1999) The Tianchi Volcano in the Changbai Mountains, Northeast China—a polygenetic central volcano. Geol Rev 45(Sup):257–262Google Scholar
  61. Wei HQ, Sparks RSJ, Liu RX et al (2003) Three active volcanoes in China and their hazards. J Asian Earth Sci 21:515–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wei HQ, Hong HJ, Sparks RSJ, Walder JS, Han B (2004) Potential hazards of eruptions around the Tianchi caldera lake, China. Acta Geologica Sinica 78(3):790–794Google Scholar
  63. Wei HQ, Melnik O, Liu YS, Barmin A, Sparks RSJ (2006) Conduit modeling of magma flow dynamics: a case study on the eruptive processes at the Tianchi Volcano. Acta Petrol Sin 22(12):3007–3013 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  64. Wei HQ, Wang Y, Jin JY, Gao L, Yun SH, Jin BL (2007) Timescale and evolution of the intracontinental Tianchi volcanic shield and ignimbrite-formation eruption, Changbaishan, Northeast China. Lithos 96:315–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. White RA, Power JA (2001) Distal volcano-tectonic earthquakes (DVT's): diagnosis and use in eruption forecasting. AGU Fall Meeting, Abs U32A–0001Google Scholar
  66. Wu CL, Li ZN, Shang RX (1997) Studies on mineral chemistry and mineral inclusion of cenozoic volcanic rocks and their mantle enclaves in Changbai mountains, Northeast China. Acta Petrol Et Mineral 16(4):289–302 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  67. Wu JP, Ming YH, Zhang HR, Su W, Liu YM (2005) Seismic activity at the Changbaishan Tianchi volcano in the summer of 2002. Chin J Geophys 48(3):621–628 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  68. Xu JD, Liu GM, Wu JP et al (2012a) Recent unrest of Changbaishan volcano, northeast China: a precursor of a future eruption? Geophys Res Lett. doi: 10.1029/2012GL052600 Google Scholar
  69. Xu J, Pan B, Liu T et al. (2012b) Climatic impact of the millennium eruption of Changbaishan volcano in China: new insights from high-precision radiocarbon wiggle-match dating Geophys. Res Lett. doi: 10.1029/2012GL054246 Google Scholar
  70. Yamada K, Gotanda K, Yonenobu H et al. (2007) High-resolution past environmental reconstruction in East Asia using annually laminated lake sediments of Lake Megata in northeastern Japan. EOS Trans, AGU, PP11B-0520Google Scholar
  71. Yang QF, Liu RX, Wei HQ, Zhang XK (2003) Preliminary study on mitigation countermeasure of volcanic hazards of Tianchi volcano, Changbai Mountains. J Seismol Res 26(2):183–190 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  72. Yang ZX, Zhang XK, Zhao JR (2005) Tomographic imaging of 3-D crustal structure beneath Changbaishan–Tianchi volcano region. Chin J Geophys 48(1):107–115Google Scholar
  73. Yin GM, Ye YG, Wan JL et al. (1999) Electron spin resonance (ESR) dating of recent volcanics from Changbai Mountains. Geol Rev 45 (Sup):287–293Google Scholar
  74. Yin JH, Jull AJT, Burr GS, Zheng YG (2012) A wiggle-match age for the Millennium eruption of Tianchi Volcano at Changbaishan, Northeastern China. Quat Sci Rev 47:150–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zhang X, Zhang CK, Zhao JR et al (2002) Deep seismic sounding investigation into the deep structure of the magma system in Changbaishan Tianchi volcanic region. Acta Seismol Sin 24(2):135–143 (in Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  76. Zhao D, Tian Y, Lei J, Liu L, Zheng S (2009) Seismic image and origin of the Changbai intraplate volcano in East Asia: role of big mantle wedge above the stagnant Pacific slab. Phys Earth Planet Inter 173:197–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Zhu GZ, Wang QL, Shi YL, Cui DX (2008) Modeling pressurized deformation source for Changbaishan volcano with homogeneous expansion point source. Chin J Geophys 51(1):89–96Google Scholar
  78. Zielinski GA, Mayewski PA, Meeker LD et al (1994) Record of volcanism since 7000 B.C. from the GISP2 Greenland Ice Core and implications for the volcano-climate system. Sci 264:948–952CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Zou H, Fan Q, Yao Y (2008) U-Th systematics of dispersed young volcanoes in NE China: asthenosphere upwelling caused by piling up and upward thickening of stagnant Pacific slab. Chem Geol 255:34–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zou H, Fan Q, Zhang H (2010) Rapid development of the great Millennium eruption of Changbaishan (Tianchi) volcano, China/North Korea: evidence from U-Th zircon dating. Lithos 119(3–4):289–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Active Tectonics and VolcanoInstitute of Geology, CEABeijingChina
  2. 2.CHVOEarthquake Administration of Jilin ProvinceJilinChina
  3. 3.Earth and Planetary Sciences DepartmentUniversity of California Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA

Personalised recommendations