Scientists fear there could soon be a large explosive eruption from the volcano Sakurajima.
The Japan Meteorological Agency has raised the alert status to Level 4, Wired reports.
Authorities are preparing for the evacuation of 4,000 people living on the same island as the volcano. But any eruption could have much wider impact, with ash impacting the city of Kagoshima with its population of 600,000, just 10 kilometres away.
“Sakurajima is one of the most consistently active volcanoes in Japan, typically producing hundreds of small explosions each year. Over the last year, there has been growing concern that its activity is consistent with records of events prior to the volcano’s last few large eruptions. The swarm of earthquakes from Sakurajima have been centered only a few kilometers beneath the Minamidake vent of the volcano and since yesterday morning, strain meters installed in the volcano have shown dramatic changes typically associated with magma rising into the main edifice of the volcano. In 2013, the volcano produced a large explosive eruption that sent ash over 6 km (20,000 feet) upwards.”