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Ash Plume from Sarychev Peak

Ash Plume from Sarychev Peak

On June 14, 2009, the U.S. Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) reported that Sarychev Peak on Ostrov Matua in Russia’s Kuril Islands continued to release ash and steam. According to AFWA, ash had spread roughly 700 nautical miles (1,300 kilometers) east-southeast of the volcano and 400 nautical miles (740 kilometers) west-northwest. The same day that AFWA released that bulletin, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image.

Black outlines indicate the location of some of the Kuril Islands. The deep brown color of the volcanic plume suggests high concentrations of volcanic ash, particularly west of Sarychev’s summit. Unlike the soft, fluffy material that results from burned vegetation, volcanic ash consists of tiny, hard, jagged particles that pose hazards to people, wildlife, and even machinery.

Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Sarychev Peak occupies the northwestern end of Ostrov Matua (Matua Island) in the Central Kuril (Kurile) Islands. Sarychev is a stratovolcano—a steep-sloped structure composed of layers of layers of ash, lava, and volcanic rocks left over from earlier eruptions.

NASA image courtesy MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.