Russian Volcano Erupts for the First Time Since 1924 And the Images From Space Are Stunning

Brian Donegan
Published: June 25, 2019

Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands of Russia, south of the volcanically active Kamchatka Peninsula, erupted last weekend for the first time since 1924 and the images from space were out of this world.

A large plume of ash and volcanic gases shot up from the stratovolcano's 2,300-foot-wide crater about 4 a.m. local time on Saturday, June 22, ending a dormant period that had been ongoing for the past 95 years.

Several satellites, as well as astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), captured stunning images of this thick ash plume as it rose and eventually streamed eastward, pulled into a storm system over the North Pacific Ocean.

ISS astronauts shot the photograph below, which shows the volcanic plume rising in a narrow column and then spreading out in a part of the plume known as the umbrella region. That's the area where the density of the ash plume becomes equal to that of the surrounding air, causing the plume to stop rising, NASA said.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph on Saturday, June 22, 2019, of the volcanic plume rising in a narrow column and then spreading out in a part of the plume known as the umbrella region.
(NASA Earth Observatory)

"The ring of white puffy clouds at the base of the column might be a sign of ambient air being drawn into the column and the condensation of water vapor," Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech, told NASA Earth Observatory. "Or it could be a rising plume from interaction between magma and seawater because Raikoke is a small island and flows likely entered the water."

This next image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on the morning of Saturday, June 22. NASA said the most concentrated ash was on the western edge of the plume, above Raikoke Volcano, at the time the image was acquired.

NASA's Terra MODIS satellite captured the ash plume above Raikoke Volcano on the morning of Saturday, June 22, 2019.
(NASA)

The image below is an oblique, composite view based on data from NASA's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on its Suomi NPP satellite and shows the ash plume a few hours after the previous image.

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NASA's Suomi NPP VIIRS satellite captured the Raikoke ash plume on Saturday, June 22, 2019.
(NASA)

NOAA satellites also got a glimpse of the Raikoke ash plume.

In the animation below from NOAA's GOES-West satellite, the eastern side of the volcanic plume is seen as it rises high up into the atmosphere.

Even the Japanese Himawari-8 satellite got a stunning view of Raikoke's large ash plume spewing into the air, as seen in the following animation.

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Volcanic ash poses a serious hazard to aircraft because it contains sharp fragments of rock and volcanic glass, according to NASA.

The Tokyo and Anchorage Volcanic Ash Advisory centers have been closely monitoring the Raikoke plume, issuing messages to aviators to inform them that the ash had reached an altitude of 8 miles. However, data from NASA's CALIPSO satellite suggest portions of the plume may have been lofted as much as 10 miles high.


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