As part of the Pacific Volcanic Ring, the remote and beautiful Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia holds more than 300 volcanoes, and twenty-nine of them are currently active. Of all the volcanoes on Kamchatka, Shiveluch is the most active – indeed, it is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.
Throughout April and early May, 2012, Shiveluch has been in more-or-less constant eruption, effusing a steady flow of lava and intermittently expelling bursts of gases and ash. The Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Team (KVERT) reported ash plumes rising to 17,800 ft (5.4 km) on May 1.
Such intense activity has left a mark on the landscape that is easily visible from space. In this true-color image, captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite on May 4, 2012, broad lines of brownish-gray ash cover the snow around Shiveluch. These shadows were created by plumes of ash as they were carried by the wind across the Kamchatka Peninsula.
Because there has been little new snow in the region since early April, the old snow has been colored and darkened by ashfall accumulated from many plumes. The radial pattern gives evidence of the direction of the wind at the time the ash was aloft. Fresh snow has fallen at the volcanic summit, creating a bright white snow cap which hides the ash lying underneath.
On the southeast flank of the mountain the snow has begun to melt, allowing a view of both the rugged tan landscape and of a green patch of forest near the snowy summit. The temperatures in the region have been relatively warm this spring. According to Weather Underground, the high temperature on May 4 reached 53° F (11.6°C) and it was raining in Klyuchi, a village located 50 km from the volcano. Highs of 66° F (19°C) are predicted later this week.