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Volcanic Activity Increasing Rapidly--UPDATE

Volcanic activity in the Pacific Ring of Fire appears to beincreasing as volcanoes in Japan and New Zealand becomeactive and eight volcanoes in the Phillipines are put on thewatch list.

Mt. Merapi on the island of Java continues to emit largequantities of gasses and magma, endangering the lives ofthousands who live on its slopes.

Meanwhile, Mt. Sakurajima in southern Japan eruptedyesterday at 5:30 PM local time. Sakurajima is one ofJapan's most active volcanoes.

The Phillipine Institute of Volcanology and Seismologyannounced that it was monitoring eight volcanoes that areshowing eruptive signs. Philvocs Director Renato Solidumsaid that the increased volcanism in the country could leadto "strong earthquakes." Volcanic activity is oftenassociated with quakes, as was true on Java two weeks ago,when a 6.2 quake related to Mt. Merapi's activity severelydamaged local towns and cities, leaving more than 6,000people dead, 36,000 injured and nearly half a million homeless.

Volcanologists are also began monitoring Mount Ngauruhoe,one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes, afterseismographs on Wednesday showed a rise in the frequency andmagnitude of earthquakes in the area.

Ngauruhoe periodically emits steam and gas but has noterupted since February 1975.

Many of the volcanoes that are either erupting or on watchlists are normally active, but it is not normal for so manyto become active at once. Scientists speculate that risingsea levels due to melt of glacial and continental ice willcontribute to increased volcanism, but have not expectedthat the small sea level rise seen so far would beresponsible for this.

UPDATE: New Scientist Magazine reports that one way to know if a volcano is going to blow is to look for tall, green plants at the place where the magma is likely to rupture. Satellites reveal that plants grow taller and greener in the ?seams? that eventually split open during an eruption.

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