Kamchatka’s Kizimen volcano erupting ash columns to height of more than 7 km

18.12.2011 15:49:43 (GMT+12)

The Kizimen volcano on Russia’s Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula has been spewing ash to a height of up 7.5 kilometres above sea level. Debris avalanches are running down its slopes, the Kamchatka Branch of the Geophysical Service of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.

The volcano has been assigned a red aviation hazard code warning of the danger that ash and gases spewed into the atmosphere by the giant mount can pose to aircraft engines.

According to the Kamchatka Branch of the Geophysical Service of the Russian Academy of Sciences, several powerful explosion-like eruptions were registered during the day on Wednesday. The volcano has developed a thermal anomaly of air temperatures of plus 32.4 degrees Centigrade in the vicinity of the giant mount against the background temperatures of minus 26 degrees. A stream of lava coming down the northeast slope of the giant mount could be seen during the night.

Kizimen is located 265 kilometres north of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Its height is 2.5 kilometres. Its last major eruption occurred in 1928 – 1929, however it was not catastrophic. Scientists have no data about other eruptions of the volcano the age of which is about 12 thousand years.

Kizimen awoke again in 2009. First, there was a growing seismic activity in the area of the giant mount. Since January 2011, the volcano has been periodically spewing ash from the crater and lava has begun to flow from the crater.

On December 9, 2011, a group of scientists of the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology of the Far Eastern Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences was sent to the eruption area to assess the state of Kizimen and collect data for forecasting its future behaviour. The specialists have made a flight over the volcano in a helicopter, organised the work of the seismic station and surveillance cameras. The analysis of data obtained during the expedition is currently underway.

The Kizimen volcano is located in Shchapina graben, on the south-eastern edge of the Central Kamchatka Depression. The volcano is similar to Unzen in Japan in its characteristics. The north-western side of Kizimen volcano is cut by NE-SW-trending, westward-dipping normal faults, which form a series of cliffs. Kizimen volcano is one of the least understood active volcanoes in Kamchatka. It has the potential to produce a Mount St Helens style eruption. Tephrachronological data show several catastrophic eruptions in evolution of Kizimen volcano.

In 2011, eruptions continue at Kizimen volcano, Kamchatka with explosions and pyroclastic flows. Seismic activity is high, with volcanic tremor recorded. A hotspot was present over the volcano during the week up to January 7, which indicates a probable lava flow. On January 1, an ash plume extended 500 km SSW of the volcano and ashfall was recorded at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Yelizovo, Paratunka, Nalychevo and all Southern Kamchatka. On 5th January ash emissions extended over 500 km ENE of the volcano and ashfall was recorded in the Komandorsky Islands.

Several new fumaroles were formed at Kizimen in the middle of November 2010. A helicopter flight around the volcano on November 20, 2010 showed several new fumaroles at summit and south-western flank of the volcano. Activity of an old fumarole "Revuschaya" (which is known since 1960) at the north-eastern volcanic flank decreased. A small amount of ash was visible on south-western flank of the volcano. On December 5, 2010 ash emissions reached a distance of 838 km NE of the volcano. Seismic activity at the volcano began increasing in July 2009.

Seismic activity at Kizimen increased significantly from December 9, 2010. A hotspot appeared over the volcano from 01:10 UTC on December 10. A volcanic ash advisory reported emissions to 9000 ft on December 10.

Four tectonic earthquakes occurred at the volcano on March 1, 2004. The earthquakes were less than magnitude 3.7.

An eruption of Kizimen was observed by local hunters in 1928. The eruption was probably small, because no deposits from this event can be found at the base of the volcano. The eruption was accompanied by frequent earthquakes, and described as having “fire flames” in the crater and black smoke from a location where fumaroles are now located.