Central Kamchatka Volcanoes, Russian Federation

Central Kamchatka Volcanoes, Russian Federation

The snow-covered peaks of several volcanoes on the central Kamchatka Peninsula stand above a fairly uniform cloud deck that obscures the surrounding lowlands. In addition to the rippled cloud patterns—caused by interactions of air currents and the volcanoes—a steam and ash plume is visible extending north-northeast from the relatively low summit (2,882 meters above sea level) of Bezymianny volcano. Volcanic activity in this part of Russia is relatively frequent, and well monitored by Russia’s Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT). The KVERT web site provides updated information about activity levels on the peninsula, including aviation alerts and webcams.

Directly to the north and northeast of Bezymianny, the much larger and taller stratovolcanoes Kamen (4,585 meters above sea level) and Klyuchevskaya (also Kliuchevskoi) (4,835 meters) are visible. Klyuchevskaya is Kamchatka’s most active volcano; it last erupted in 2011, whereas Kamen has not erupted during the recorded history of the region. The most recent activity at the volcanic massif of Ushkovsky (3,943 meters) was an explosive eruption in 1890.

To the south of Bezymianny, the peaks of Zimina (3,081 meters above sea level) and Udina (2,923 meters) volcanoes are just visible above the cloud deck; no historical eruptions are known from either of them. While the large Tobalchik volcano to the southwest is largely formed from a basaltic shield volcano, its highest peak (3,682 meters) is formed from an older stratovolcano. Tobalchik last erupted in 1976.

While this image may look like it was taken from a passenger airplane, in fact it was taken from the considerably higher altitude of the International Space Station (ISS). At the time the image was taken, the ISS was located approximately 417 kilometers above the Sea of Okhotsk and more than 700 kilometers to the southwest of the volcanoes. The combination of the low viewing angle, the shadows, the height, and the distance from the volcanoes contributes to the appearance of a topographic relief map.

Astronaut photograph ISS033-E-18010 was acquired on November 3, 2012, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using an 800 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 33 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.