The colossal Klyuchevskoy eruption emits a plume of smoke more than 1,600 km visible from space

Klyuchevskoy, a stratovolcano dominating the Kamchatka Peninsula, the highest volcano in Eurasia (4,750 meters above sea level), experienced an eruption of remarkable magnitude on November 1, 2023. This eruption, captured by NASA satellites, released a huge amount of ash and smoke. , which form an impressive column visible from space. It not only had significant local impacts, but also drew the attention of the international scientific community to the environmental consequences and risks associated with such geological events. It highlights the importance of monitoring and understanding volcanoes in the current climatic and geological context.

Advanced satellite monitoring of the Klyuchevskoy eruption

NASA satellites captured the Klyuchevskoy eruption live. The MODIS spectroradiometer (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), installed on the Aqua satellite, played a key role. This device, which monitors global changes, makes it possible to capture detailed images of the Earth at different wavelengths.

When Klyuchevskoy erupted, MODIS immediately detected the volcanic activity. Images broadcast by the satellite accurately revealed the formation and evolution of the ash and smoke column. The latter reached about 12 kilometers above sea level, but its size is even more impressive: it stretches over a distance of 1,600 kilometers. The explosion lasted only a few days and appears to have stopped, the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT) said.

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Local consequences of the Klyuchevskoy eruption and safety measures

The Klyuchevskoy eruption had immediate consequences for neighboring communities. Faced with the threat of a giant column of ash, authorities had to take drastic security measures. The most striking was the evacuation of schools in risk areas. Several schools in the towns of Ust-Kamchatsk and Klyuchy, the towns closest to the volcano, were closed. A protective measure against possible ash precipitation.

photo credit: panoramic An enlarged photo of the eruption plume in true color. Although difficult to distinguish from the cloud, the plume in this image extends from Klyuchevskoy to the Pacific Ocean. © NASA Earth Observatory/Wanmei Liang and Lauren Dauphin

At the same time, the suspension of flights in the region was announced. This decision was taken following the change in the aviation code to red, a warning signal for imminent danger. Volcanic ash can cause significant damage to aircraft engines. They also compromise visibility, making flights particularly risky.

The eruption led to a notable increase in air pollution in the cities of Ust-Kamchatsk and Klyuchy. Fine particles of volcanic ash suspended in the atmosphere affect the respiratory health of residents. This leads to health problems and requires more supervision and preventive measures from local authorities.

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Kamchatka: a natural laboratory for the study of volcanoes

The Kamchatka Peninsula, located in the Russian Far East, is a geologically active region. It is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. It is a tectonic belt 40,200 km long that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. It contains about three-quarters of the planet’s active volcanoes and geothermal resources. But Kamchatka’s volcanoes are remarkable not only for their numbers. This area is distinguished by the greatest variety of types, more than any other region.

The Ring of Fire has been active in other areas lately: On October 30, an underwater volcanic eruption off the coast of the Japanese island of Iwo Jima created an entirely new small island of hardened magma, also visible from space.

Kamchatka’s unique biodiversity includes a variety of endemic animal and plant species. It is particularly sensitive to environmental changes caused by volcanic activities. They seek to understand the resilience and adaptation of ecosystems in the face of natural disturbances, which have already been affected by the climate crisis.

Furthermore, the study of Kamchatka eruptions is crucial for improving natural hazard management strategies. Helping scientists develop more effective emergency response plans for communities living in volcanically active areas. This includes in particular the setting up of early warning systems.

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Comparison of the Klyuchevskoy volcano with other historical eruptions

To put the size of the Klyuchevskoy eruption into perspective, it is instructive to compare it to other large eruptions. In particular, that of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano in January 2022. Located in the South Pacific, this underwater eruption was exceptional in terms of strength and the height reached by the column of smoke and ash. It projected volcanic material up to 57 kilometers altitude. This height has never before been recorded for a volcanic eruption.

By comparison, the Klyuchevskoy eruption, while massive, produced an ash column that reached about 12 kilometers high. This difference highlights the variability of volcanic eruptions in terms of size, type and impact on the environment.

The eruption in Tonga had global consequences, particularly for the ozone layer and climatic conditions. Klyuchevskoy’s had a smaller impact on the ozone layer. The amount of water vapor emitted was significantly less and the ash column did not reach such great heights. This underlines the importance of monitoring these events to assess their potential impact on the overall environment.

>> Read also: In 2022, the Hunga Tonga volcano eruption generated the fastest ocean currents ever recorded

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