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Illustration of tectonic plate activity off the Kamchatka
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Illustration of tectonic plate activity off the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia.

May 13, 2010
More about this Image Just off Kamchatka Peninsula, which curves down from the Russian mainland, the pacific plate plunges under the North American plate, giving rise to dozens of active volcanoes. In this illustration, Kamchatka and the North American plate have been made transparent to show where the Pacific plate has torn, allowing the underlying mantle to erode the plate's edges. The tear may account for the presence of adakites--bits of hardened lava that contain plate material--in the region's volcanism.

National Science Foundation (NSF) grantee Jonathan Lees, an associate professor of geological sciences, has been studying the area and its surrounding volcanoes for years, setting up an array of seismic instruments on Kamchatka.