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Four New Cinder Cones from the Ongoing Tolbachik Eruption in Russia

Rocky Planet iconRocky Planet
By Erik Klemetti
Jan 18, 2013 10:20 PMNov 20, 2019 1:53 AM


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The Tolbachik area, with multiple active volcanoes such as Bezymianny and Kliuchevskoi, seen from the International Space Station on January 6, 2013. Image: Commander Chris Hadfield. Sometimes, if an eruption just keeps on rolling, we start to lose track of it. For me, the Tolbachik eruption began to slip through the cracks, so I thought an update on the activity is in order. After nearly 7 weeks, the eruption at Tolbachik is still going strong. The latest KVERT report on the eruption says that it has produced four (!) new cinder cones on the flanks of the volcano and the lava flows continue to move away from the volcano on the western and southeastern flanks of the volcano. The plume from the volcano, still plainly visible on satellite images, continue to reach altitudes of ~4 km/13,100 feet above sea level. Interestingly, some reports mention that all this activity has started to produce a new lava lake at Tolbachik, possibly the first lava lake recorded on the Kamchatka Peninsula. This likely means that the rate of eruption is still fast enough to keep all that lava fluid enough to form a lake. Overall, it really does seem like this is following the same pattern of a voluminous basaltic eruption like the last eruption at Tolbachik. The 1975-76 activity produced over 1.2 cubic kilometers of lava (plus almost a cubic kilometer of tephra as well) -- and rough estimates in late December of the volume of the current activity was around 1 cubic kilometer (so far). The previous eruption lasted almost a year and a half. However, as of right now, it is impossible to tell how long this current eruption will continue. As of late December, some of the lava flows as close as a few kilometers from from vent had cooled enough to allow for snow to accumulate while new flows used the channels established by older flows. You can also notice some of the older cinder cones from previous eruptions just to the south of the current fissure -- likely this is the same landscape as this eruption will leave. There has been some great video footage of the eruption, showing the fountaining lava (up to 200 meters / 650 feet tall!) from the main vents and the lava flows creeping down slope from the new cinder cones. You can also see a great collection of images from across the whole eruption on the KVERT site for the Tolbachik. Even with all this activity, the volcano is on Orange status for aviation as large explosive eruptions are unlikely at this point.

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