October in Kamchatka is a time of radical change, as the brilliant colors of autumn quickly give way to snow and ice. And always, whatever the season, Kamchatka’s volcanoes continue to rumble, sometimes erupting with plumes of ash and gas, or with flowing lava. Near the volcanoes even the newest snow quickly becomes covered with a layer of gray volcanic ash.
On October 28, 2012, the Terra satellite passed over Kamchatka, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer flying aboard to capture this true-color image. Snow has fallen across the mountains of the central spine of the peninsula and the eastern mountains, as well as on volcanic peaks. The sparse vegetation of the area has turned brown, giving the land a tan hue, with little or no green visible. Off the coast, sediment colors the waters first tan, then aqua.
Well over 100 volcanoes are situated on the peninsula, at least 29 are active. The most easily identified volcanoes in this image are Klyuchevskoy and Benzimanny, a giant pair found in the central depression, between two mountain ranges. At lower resolution, Klyuchevskoy (to the north) appears to have four dark triangular marks, and Benzimanny appears to have three. At high resolution, these triangular marks can clearly be seen as shadows of high peaks. These long shadows are formed due to the low sun angle of winter in the region.
Just south of the pair lies Kizimen, a smaller but active volcano. On October 27, Itar-Tass reported that Kizimen spewed ash to an altitude of 4.5 km above sea level, accompanied by 93 earthquakes. The ash plume blew to the northwest. This plume can still be seen just south and nearly touching Benzimanny. If the plume is followed to its source, and viewed at high resolution, it is evident that the snow around Kizimen has been covered in gray ash.