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Kuril Islands
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Kuril Islands

June 23, 2010
The Kuril Islands (or Kuril'skiye Ostrova) are a chain of volcanic islands that connect the northern Japanese islands to the Russian Sredinnyy Khrebet Mountains on the Kamchatka Peninsula (Kamchatskaya Oblast). These islands are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that runs from New Zealand, around Australia and through Indonesia, up the eastern coast of Asia, along the Aleutian Islands, and down the western coast of the Americas.

Near the top right corner of the image, you can see interesting cloud formations - ship-wave-shaped. Cloud patterns like these are formed when the wind flows past the islands, and is swept around and over, which leaves a wake similar to that of a ship - hence the name. Wind behaves like a fluid; when it encounters an obstacle, it must move around it, leaving behind a wake, or a visible wave pattern. Ship-wave-shaped cloud patterns form as the air alternately cools and warms on the wave peaks and troughs, causing clouds to form on the peaks, but not the troughs.

This image was captured by the MODIS on the Aqua satellite on June 6, 2010.


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