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Raikoke volcano eruption

Raikoke volcano erupted on June 22, sending a plume of ash and smoke so high it was clearly visible from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory


The Inertia

Before June 22, the last time Raikoke volcano erupted, it was 1924. The volcano is in the Kuril Islands, just north of Japan, and makes up its own uninhabited island—and judging from NASA’s photos of the recent eruption, that’s a very good thing.

Raikoke, which sits in the Sea of Okhotsk, has been under Russian control since World War II and is only about two square miles. Unlike some of the other volcanos in the Kamchatka Peninsula—which, by the way, harbors some pretty decent waves—Raikoke rarely erupts. Before the eruption in 1924, it last blew its top in 1778.

At 4:00 a.m. local time, however, the first of at least nine volcanic pulses began. The eruption shot a plume of ash and smoke eight miles into the sky, creating a plume so big astronauts on the International Space Station were able to capture a series of incredible images. The photos show something called the “umbrella region,” which is the high point of the plume. In short, the density of the ash and smoke equalizes with the air around it and it stops rising, then spreads out. According to NASA, the carter on Raikoke is nearly 2500-feet wide.

“What a spectacular image,” said Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech. “It reminds me of the classic Sarychev Peak astronaut photograph of an eruption in the Kuriles from about ten years ago. The ring of white puffy clouds at the base of the column might be a sign of ambient air being drawn into the column and the condensation of water vapor. Or it could be a rising plume from interaction between magma and seawater because Raikoke is a small island and flows likely entered the water.”

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