By Erik KlemettiEmail AuthorNovember 27, 2012 | 8:52 pm
For the first time in 36 years, Tolbachik in Russia is erupting according to reports from Russia. KVERT, the volcano monitoring body for Kamchatka, released a bulletin describing a significant explosive eruption with the potential for ash explosions up to 10 km / 32,800 ft. With the many air routes across the northern Pacific, this eruption will need to be closely monitored for its impact on air travel over the eastern Siberian peninsula. The ash advisory from the Tokyo VAAC also mentions a report of ash at FL 330 (33,000 feet) that was spreading to the NNW. VolcanoDiscovery reported that seismicity had been creeping upwards around Tolbachik since at least early November as well. Trying to get information from some of the hastily-translated articles from Russia is, ahem, fun. One described the eruption as the “volcano’s top caldera is being filled with fresh and gushing lava” based on incandescence seen at the summit.
The last eruption of Tolbachik started in 1975 and was quite impressive, rating at least a VEI 4 with both explosive and effusive activity. However, that was a larger eruption than most over the last century at the Russian volcano and most are smaller VEI 2 eruptions. Interestingly, the 1975-76 was a mainly basaltic eruption (see above), the largest recorded in the northern Kamchatka peninsula — however, that activity did produce 13 km / 42,000 foot ash plumes as well during the creation of a series of cinder cones and a 15 square kilometer lava flow field.
Unfortunately, today’s passes by the Terra and Aqua satellite didn’t capture any plume – likely because the pass was too early, but some of the peninsula is obscured by clouds as well. However, this 2004 NASA Earth Observatory image shows the summit caldera at Tolbachik and its relative proximity to its more famous brethren, Bezymianny and Kliuchevskoi. As always, I will try to update with details as they arrive.
Update 11 PM EST 11/27: John Seach is reporting via Twitter that towns up to 35 km from the volcano have received 4 cm of ash fall from the eruption.