Volcanic eruptions are one of the most violent and beautiful geological phenomenon are earth, constantly reminding us of the restless planet we live on. Presently there are about 500 active volcanoes in the world – the majority following along the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' - a 40,000 km horseshoe shaped area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where a large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. The Ring of Fire has 452 volcanoes of which 50 each year. There are more than 1,500 potentially active volcanoes on earth.
A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev Volcano (Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, and it is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island.
Puyehue Cordón Caulle Volcanic Complex emitted a pale plume of gas and ash on August 18, 2011. Activity started on June 4, 2011. Signs of an older eruption are visible to the southwest (lower left) of the fresh lava. A diagonal line of vents and craters marks the location of an eruption that started on May 24, 1960—only 38 hours after a magnitude 9.5 earthquake occurred under the Pacific Ocean, about 200 kilometers away from Puyehue Cordón Caulle.
The thick, steam-rich plume from Guau Volcano in the Vanuatu Archipelago blows directly northeast in this natural-color satellite image. It was acquired on April 24, 2010 by the Advanced Land Imager aboard NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) spacecraft. The thick steam is brighter white than the surrounding lower-altitude clouds. Vegetation is green, as is Lake Letas. Vegetation to the south and west of the volcano, damaged by ash and acidic volcanic gases, is dark gray-brown.
The plume of ash and steam rising from the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano reached five to six kilometers (17,000 to 20,000 feet) into the atmosphere on May 10, 2010, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image.
Despite no reports of activity, Bezymianny Volcano exhibited a modest plume on November 25, 2009. The plume appears translucent white in this false-color satellite image acquired by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft. The white color and absence of visible ash on the snow-covered peak suggest that the plume is mostly steam. A striking shadow cast by the plume darkens the southern flank of neighboring Kamen Volcano.
Papua New Guinea's Manam Volcano released a thin, faint plume on June 16, 2010, as clouds clustered at the volcano's summit. The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite took this picture the same day.
In the waning days of 2009 and the first days of 2010, the lava dome on the summit of Soufrière Hills Volcano continued to grow rapidly. As the dome rises, rocks and debris can break off, cascading down the river valleys and gullies that radiate from the summit. These pyroclastic flows are among the major hazards created by Soufrière Hills.
This natural-color satellite image shows the major drainages on the southern and eastern sides of Soufrière Hills. Tan deposits from volcanic flows fill the valleys, the product of almost 15 years of intermittent activity at the volcano. Green vegetation survives on ridges between valleys. The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite acquired the image on December 29, 2009.
Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the world's most active and dangerous volcanoes. For most of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a lava lake has partially filled the 3,470-meter- (11,384-foot-) high summit caldera. White steam and other volcanic gases (which contribute a bluish tint) rise from the surface of Nyiragongo's lava lake in this natural-color satellite image. The image was acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite on May 28, 2010.
On June 4, 2011, a fissure opened in Chile's Puyehue-Cordón Caulle Volcanic Complex, sending ash 45,000 feet (14,000 meters) into the air. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image shortly after the eruption began.
As the eruption of Puyehue Cordón Caulle wanes, life is returning to normal in nearby communities. The Buenos Aires Herald reported that the first domestic aircraft landed at Bariloche, Argentina, in more than three months on September 17, 2011. Bariloche is an Andean town about 60 kilometers southeast of the eruption center. At the time, winds blew the ash plume from Puyehue Cordón Caulle towards the northwest, away from the town.
On March 29, 2007, the Sheveluch (Shiveluch) Volcano on the Russian Federation's Kamchatka Peninsula erupted. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying onboard NASA's Aqua satellite took this picture at 02:00 UTC on March 29.
The Kamchatka Peninsula, along Russia's Pacific coast, is currently the most volcanically active area in the world: four volcanoes are erupting simultaneously, and a fifth is showing signs of an impending eruption. Ash plumes from two of these volcanoes are visible in this natural-color satellite image. Along the northern (top) edge of the image Shiveluch emits a broad gray plume from the lava dome growing on its southern flank. 90 kilometers (60 miles) to the southwest a much smaller plume escapes from Bezymianny. This image was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite on August 3, 2011. Bright green vegetation covers the river floodplains and mountainsides, which gives way to bare rock and eventually snow at higher elevations.
On August 12, 2011, Etna had its tenth paroxysm of the year, captured in this natural-color satellite image. Etna spewed a thick white plume of gas and ash to the southeast, towards the nearby city of Catania. The ash cloud was produced by vigorous lava fountaining at the New Southeast Crater. The Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Center estimated ash emissions reached an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,300 meters); 2,000 feet (600 meters) above the 10,925-foot (3,330-meter) summit. The image was captured at 11:40 a.m. local time by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite.
The mild eruptions of Italy's Stromboli Volcano are so frequent and numerous that an entire style of volcanism—strombolian—is named after the volcano. Strombolian eruptions are characterized by nearly continuous lava fountaining, accompanied by emissions of gas, ash, and volcanic bombs. The sight of that lava spraying into the sky at night has led people to nickname Stromboli the "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean." This natural-color satellite image shows the island of Stromboli, the volcano's cloud-covered summit, and a thin volcanic plume on January 13, 2011.
A small plume rose from the summit of Ulawun Volcano on Papua New Guinea's island of New Britain in early June 2010. The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image on June 10.