The pristine land of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East was born as the creation of fiery volcanic eruptions over millions of years. The now-towering mountains of Kamchatka had their origins in the late Pliocene era, about 2.5 million years ago. In that era, magma erupted through the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, forming small submarine mountain ranges. Over time, and after many, many eruptive cycles, the mountains grew into a steep mountain range linked by vast volcanic plateaus. This arc, called the Kuril-Kamchatka arc connected the mountains to Asia.
As time passed, the Pacific Ocean poured over the land, sculpting the landscape and overflowing lowlands. Also, as the massive underground reservoirs of magma were emptied by the long volcanic activity, the surface of the Earth began to sink, creating deep rift valley cutting deep between mountain ridges and plateaus. In the end, the Kuril-Kamchatka arc became a region of volcanic islands, about 2,000 miles long, with each island surrounded by water, not land. The Kamchatka Peninsula is the northern end of the arc, and presently contains about 29 active volcanoes.
On November 27, 2012 the Plosky Tolbachik volcano, which had been slumbering for 36 years, woke with a bang – shooting ash about 10,000 meters (over 32,800 ft) in the air and ejecting lava fountains. Lava flows filled the caldera, and flowed up to 16 km (10 mi) downslope. The eruption has continued unabated for almost three weeks since the initial awakening.
On December 24, Plosky Tolbachik followed in the millennial footprints of land change. According to Activolcans.fr, the main cone ceased explosive activity, but a second cone, which had been building on the east side of Tolbachik Dol, partially collapsed. This dramatic event sent a boiling lava lake, which had been enclosed in the second cone, downslope as a flood-like lava flow.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite captured this true-color image on December 13, 2012. In this image, a large red hot-spot marks the site of Plosky Tolbachik, where temperatures are much higher than background.