Geography in the news

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by Teachit
9th October 2014


Japan | Vulcanicity | Disaster | Ash

Mount Ontake (御嶽山 Ontake-san) is the second highest volcano in Japan (after Mount Fuji) at 3,067 m.  It was thought to have been extinct until a series of eruptions occurred in 1979; there were further eruptions in 1991 and 2007.

Without warning on September 27, the volcano erupted again with an explosion of steam, water, ash, rock, and volcanic bombs.

The death toll now stands as more than 55 people with nine people still unaccounted for and is Japan’s deadliest eruption in over a century.

The image shows Japanese Self-Defense Force soldiers and firefighters about to search for people still missing.  The rescuers, near the summit of Mt Ontake, are in sharp contrast to the grey volcanic ash.

A useful chronology of the 2014 eruption is available on Wikipedia.

Teaching ideas

  1. The image could be used as a starter asking the students to write ten words to describe the scene.
  2. Students could be asked to provide a newspaper headline to accompany the image.
  3. An excellent short BBC video of the eruption is available on YouTube.  Students could latch to the video and then write a short summary/newspaper report.
  4. Students could be asked as to the number of deaths as Japan has a robust volcano monitoring system … or asked how you monitor tectonic activity and predict eruptions.  It’s believed this was a phreatic eruption caused by steam rather than magma.  Seismic monitoring networks generally record movements of magma but in a phreatic eruption, the heat from magma superheats the ground water rapidly causing it to blast apart the overlying rock, pulverizing it into ash.
  5. The YouTube video could be used to ask the students to identify cause, effects and responses.

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