Does lack of snow indicate Mount Fuji's about to blow?

MWM: Something is up there, that's for sure. Must be the volcanic gas and heat rising in greater quantity. An initial stage of eruption in this long sleepy volcano is likely to be rather like St. Helens was in the 1980's. Spritzy and then suddenly explosive.

Watch out, Mount Fuji, one of Japan's most endearing symbols, looks like it's about to blow its top, according to Shukan Post (1/13-20).

Perhaps the biggest indication that Fuji-san's lid is loose comes because it's currently bereft of snow on its distinctive cap despite it being mid-winter and unprecedented snowfalls being dumped on the Sea of Japan coastline.

"Everybody around here is talking about the lack of snow on top of Mount Fuji. You can't say that it always has a coating of snow at this time of the year, but considering all the snow that's fallen right throughout the country, everybody thinks it's a bit weird that there's no snow on Mount Fuji," says a man living in Fujiyoshida, a Shizuoka Prefecture city at the foot of Japan's highest mountain. "Does the lack of snow mean an eruption's on the books? We're not thinking that far ahead."

Nor is the Meteorological Agency, which says that shortage of snow is a simple situation.

"It won't snow on the Pacific Ocean side of Japan unless a cold front approaches the coastline off the Izu Peninsula. The same case applies for Tokyo," an agency spokesman tells Shukan Post. "If it's not snowing in Tokyo, it's not likely that there's going to be much snow on top of Mount Fuji."

Not everybody is so easily convinced.

"I've started to feel a bit poorly since about the start of December. I've felt this uncomfortable kind of stress all the way along. After a while, this develops into a kind of nausea, sort of like the feeling you get with car sickness," a resident of Kamikuishiki, another village at the foot of Fuji, tells Shukan Post. "When I'd felt like this for a couple of weeks, I mentioned it to some neighbors, and discovered that there were a number of people feeling the same way. One person said they felt like they were permanently car sick, while another said they thought their ailment was like being plagued by a speaker constantly emitting a deep, unending tone. The way they describe it might be a bit different, but the symptoms these people are describing are all the same as mine. I don't know anything about what's causing this because I'm not a doctor, but one of the other people said that Mount Fuji's seismic activity can be used to predict an earthquake in the Tokai Region and that made me even more anxious than I had been."

Some experts say that it would not be surprising for Mount Fuji to erupt at any moment.

"It's my personal belief that magma build-up inside Mount Fuji has already reached a critical stage," Prof. Masaaki Kimura, a seismology professor at the University of the Ryukyus tells Shukan Post. "Mount Fuji erupts about once every 300 years. And it's been about 300 years since Mount Fuji's last eruption. Volcanoes go in periods where they're active for about 300 to 400 years and then dormant for 300 to 400 years. But, it's a matter of simple arithmetic that Mount Fuji is due to erupt pretty soon."

It seems the natural world fears that Fuji-san is about to blow, too. Since the start of 2004, frogs and stinkbugs once prominent in the area have virtually disappeared. Some see this as a sign that they've sensed something untoward is about to happen and they're avoiding the place like the plague. Observers have noticed this phenomenon, too.

"The most recent change has probably been the sudden disappearance of sparrows around the mountain since about the middle of October," Hideaki Kuribayashi, a photographer who bases himself near Mount Fuji, tells Shukan Post. "Normally, sparrows flock to this place, even in the middle of winter." (By Ryann Connell)

January 6, 2006

Best Wishes,

Michael Wells Mandeville,
The Hills of Arizona
at mwman@earthlink.net


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