Puzzled locals fear the sleeping giant may be coming to life. 

Mt Fuji has long been praised as a national symbol of beauty, with its near-symmetrical silhouette gracing everything from bread to ice and even erasers. This peaceful imagery, however, makes it easy to forget that it’s actually an active volcano with the power to decimate its surrounding areas in seconds.

Those who live in the vicinity of the volcano are always mindful of the earth-shattering potential of the giant in their midst, so when they sense something unusual with the mountain, they definitely take note of it. That’s what’s been happening this week, when the mountain took on a very unusual look for December, appearing without snow, despite cold temperatures in the area.

The image above, taken today on 21 December, was accompanied with the following message:

“This is Mt Fuji today…Mt Fuji in December…? Why isn’t it snowing…!?? Strange………”

This lack of snow on the mountain prompted a number of commenters to jump to the conclusion that it might be a sign that the volcano is heating up, as it would during an impending explosion.

“Mt Fuji seriously looks like it’s about to explode.”
“Don’t erupt, Mt Fuji!”
“There’s no snow on one side of the mountain, despite being cold. Will it erupt? On New Year…”
“No no no no no no no — what kind of phenomenon is this?”
“It’s snowing a lot in the northeastern part of Kanto, and the temperature is low, so this is scary. Why is there no snow?”

It’s been over 300 years since Mt Fuji last erupted in 1707, and with experts recording heightened activity at the site since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, many people are on edge over the possibility of an explosion, which could see ash fall as far as Tokyo and Chiba.

The tweet above reads:

“Mt Fuji today. It was warm at the beginning of winter, but even so, there’s no snow on Mt Fuji. I look at it every day, but it’s not Mt Fuji in winter. It’s Mt Fuji in summer. And today there was an earthquake at Niijima [an island in the nearby Izu island chain]. Is there a causal relationship… An eruption would be scary.” 

As more and more people joined the discussion on why the mountain would be so bare despite the wintry cold, some sleuths wondered if the cause might be related to the lack of snow and rain this season. However, snow had fallen on the mountain earlier in the month, although in a weird manner, as this image from 16 December shows.

“Seriously, the way the snow’s fallen on Mt Fuji is strange — first time like this.”

Rather than having a distinctive snowy cap as it usually does at this time of year, the mountain appeared to have snow in a vertical line down one side. This led some to believe the lack of snow might have something to do with the wind.

“I’ve heard talk that there’s no snow on one side of Mt Fuji because it’s been melted by heat as a sign of an eruption. Isn’t it possible that snow will only accumulate on one side due to the direction of the wind?”

The wind theory does appear to have some substance to it, as this Twitter user commented on the strong winds in the area.

“A panoramic view of Mt Fuji on the morning of 21 December (Monday). The temperature near the summit is minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit). The wind is strong, even at the foot of the mountain, so it looks amazing at the top. It’s a nice day with no clouds. It was 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) in Fuji City. There really is no snow…”

With scientists regularly conducting thermal surveys and continually monitoring CO2 levels at Mt Fuji to detect possible signs of deep magma movement, it’s likely that the lack of snow isn’t actually a sign of danger.

While it’s unusual for Mt Fuji to look so naked at this time of year, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the volcano is about to blow — it could just be down to the conditions not being right for the mountain to receive its usual skirt of snow.

Although there is an off-chance that the mountain is simply breathing happily again, after it was closed to climbers this year.

Source: Hachima Kikou
Featured image: Pakutaso
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