The Plosky Tolbachik volcano, in Russia's far eastern Kamchatka peninsula, violently awoke from a 35-year slumber in late November, 2012, when it shot clouds of ash almost 10,000 feet (about 3,000 meters) into the sky. The lava flows destroyed two nearby scientific camps, and nearby villages took precautions against further eruptions by closing schools.
The eruption took place on November 27, and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image four days later, on December 1. Thermal sensors detected significant hot spots, where the temperatures register higher than background. These are marked in red in this image, and appear to be associated with heat at the caldera and lava flows. At high resolution, the hotspots can be seen surrounding dark areas which likely represent lava. Also, the snow surrounding the volcano, especially to the northwest, appears to have a covering of gray – possibly from the volcanic ash.
Tolbachik is a shield volcano—a low-profile, broad structure with a shape resembling an ancient warrior shield. The volcano has a complex configuration, and the eruptive activity in late November reportedly occurred around the southern cone. Reports described eruptions from two fissures, a volcanic ash plume reaching 3 kilometers (9,800 feet) in altitude, and emissions of sulfur dioxide. Tolbachik’s last known eruption occurred in 1976, according to the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian.