Ash plume from Kizimen Kamchatka Peninsula eastern Russia
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Ash plume from Kizimen, Kamchatka Peninsula, eastern Russia

January 13, 2011
A broad beige plume rises from Kizimen Volcano in eastern Russia and stretches far over the Pacific Ocean on January 6, 2010. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite passed over the region on that same day, capturing this true-color image.

Reaching an elevation of 2,376 meters (7,795 feet) Kizimen is a stratovolcano made up of alternating layers of ash, lava and rocks deposited by previous eruptions. Geologist estimate that the volcano formed about 12,000 years ago, yet it remains one of the least understood active volcanoes on the Kamchatka peninsula. An eruption was last reported by locals in approximately 1928, and was described as accompanied by black smoke and “fire flames” as well as considerable seismic activity.

In 2004, four earthquakes, each registering less than a 3.7 on the Richter magnitude scale, were recorded at the volcano. In July 2009, earthquakes were recorded in increasing frequency, without a resultant eruption. In November, 2010, several new fumeroles - gaps in the Earth which emit steam and gasses - appeared on the slopes of Kizimen and by December seismic activity once again increased. On December 10, a hotspot appeared at the volcano, with an emission of ash that rose to 9,000 feet. Hotspots, also known as thermal anomalies, often indicate flow of lava.

Since that time, Kizimen continues to erupt. Dramatic explosions, pyroclastic flows and volcanic tremors have been recorded constantly since December 31. Ashfall has been recorded over all of Southern Kamchatka, and ash plumes have extended over 500 km from the volcano. The Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT) has set the Aviation alert code as Red, warning that ash explosions up to 10 km (or 32,800 ft) ASL could occur at any time, and warns that these could affect international and low-flying aircraft.

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