One of Russia’s most active volcanoes has erupted, spewing a vast ash cloud across a vast swathe of the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula. It smothered villages in drifts of grey volcanic dust, triggering an aviation warning that could affect regional flights.
Volcanologists have warned that the ash cloud will likely pick up in the coming days, affecting international flights and low-flying aircraft. Rosaviatsiya, the Russian aviation authority, issued a red code alert for planes in its zone on Tuesday and said it was ready to assist crews if needed.
The Shiveluch volcano, located on the Kamchatka peninsula, has emitted massive ash plumes in recent months. It is one of the most active in the country, with an estimated 60 substantial eruptions over the past 10,000 years.
Shiveluch has two main parts, with the younger part – Young Shiveluch – located at 2,800 meters, while Old Shiveluch is at 3,283 meters. The volcano is a stratovolcano, which means that the lava dome is composed of alternating layers of hardened lava and rock from earlier eruptions, together with ashes.
Several volcanoes on the Kamchatka peninsula have been active in recent months, including Shiveluch and Klyuchevskaya. They have been erupting regularly but with different styles of activity.
A nighttime thermal infrared image from NASA Terra shows the summit of Shiveluch, where a large eruption plume can be seen in the center. The plume extends up to a few km into the sky and stretches eastward. The volcano’s summit crater is visible at the bottom of the image, along with a few other peaks and lava flows.
This volcano has a history of complex explosive eruptions with pyroclastic and lava flows. The last major eruption occurred in 2007, and scientists say there have been at least 60 other significant eruptive events in the past ten thousand years.
Lava and ash have poured out of the volcano, resulting in a massive ash cloud that has spread to the north and southwest. It has also prompted a warning of mud flows along a nearby highway.
Danila Chebrov, director of the Kamchatka branch of the Geophysical Survey, has warned that the ash cloud will likely calm down but could pick up again in the coming days and cause dangers for flights in its region. He says it is not expected that the lava flows will reach the local villages but will impact the people living there.
A massive cloud of ash has been covering the sky in the region after the eruption, with some towns and villages covered in drifts of grey ash as deep as 8.5cm. As a result, an aviation warning has been issued, with the Independent reporting that “an immense wall of ash is rising above forests, rivers, and villages.”