Astronauts on the International Space Station have captured a very rare eruption of Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands on the Kamchatka Peninsula. In case you didn’t know, unlike the other volcanos in the area, Raikoke is extremely dormant as the last eruptions occurred way back in 19924 and 1778.
In a recent blog post, NASA revealed that the current eruption began on June 22 at 4:00 a.m. local time. at the time, the vast plume of smoke and ash shot up from the volcano’s 700-meter-wide crater. Shortly afterwards, the thick plume was absorbed by a storm in the North Pacific Ocean.
“What a spectacular image. It reminds me of the classic Sarychev Peak astronaut photograph of an eruption in the Kuriles from about ten years ago,” said Simon Carn, a volcanologist. “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.”
In addition to ISS astronauts, one of NASA’s satellites captured a second image which showed that the most concentrated ash was on the western edge of the plume and near the storm. As the ash can be extremely dangerous for aircrafts, Tokyo and Anchorage Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers tracked the ash and revealed that it reached an altitude of 8 miles. Additionally, the eruption emitted concentrated sulfur dioxide which went to the North Pacific as the plume was absorbed by the storm.
Carn said that the altitudes along with large sulfur dioxide mean that the plume had reached stratosphere. According to scientists, plumes that reach the stratosphere affect aviation and climate the most.