ISS has best balcony seat for volcanic eruption

Source: International Space Station - Click for larger image
Sarychev Peak Eruption, Kuril Islands Source: International Space Station - Click for a larger image

I can’t ever recall seeing a more stunning image of a volcanic eruption. The ash plume from it has spread quite a bit. What effect will it have?

From NASA Earth Observatory (h/t to “Tamara” on the new WUWT Tips and Notes Page)

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. Prior to June 12, the last explosive eruption occurred in 1989, with eruptions in 1986, 1976, 1954, and 1946 also producing lava flows. Ash from the multi-day eruption has been detected 2,407 kilometers east-southeast and 926 kilometers west-northwest of the volcano, and commercial airline flights are being diverted away from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake.

This detailed astronaut photograph is exciting to volcanologists because it captures several phenomena that occur during the earliest stages of an explosive volcanic eruption. The main column is one of a series of plumes that rose above Matua Island on June 12. The plume appears to be a combination of brown ash and white steam. The vigorously rising plume gives the steam a bubble-like appearance. The eruption cleared a circle in the cloud deck. The clearing may result from the shockwave from the eruption or from sinking air around the eruption plume: as the plume rises, air flows down around the sides like water flowing off the back of a surfacing dolphin. As air sinks, it tends to warm and expand; clouds in the air evaporate.

In contrast, the smooth white cloud on top may be water condensation that resulted from rapid rising and cooling of the air mass above the ash column. This cloud, which meteorologists call a pileus cloud, is probably a transient feature: the eruption plume is starting to punch through. The structure also indicates that little to no shearing wind was present at the time to disrupt the plume. (Satellite images acquired 2-3 days after the start of activity illustrate the effect of shearing winds on the spread of the ash plumes across the Pacific Ocean.)

By contrast, a cloud of denser, gray ash—probably a pyroclastic flow—appears to be hugging the ground, descending from the volcano summit. The rising eruption plume casts a shadow to the northwest of the island (image top). Brown ash at a lower altitude of the atmosphere spreads out above the ground at image lower left. Low-level stratus clouds approach Matua Island from the east, wrapping around the lower slopes of the volcano. Only about 1.5 kilometers of the coastline of Matua Island (image lower center) are visible beneath the clouds and ash.

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Sarychev Eruption Generates Large Cloud of Sulfur Dioxide June 10, 2009

Sarychev Eruption Generates Large Cloud of Sulfur Dioxide
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Ash Plume Overlying Clouds at Sarychev Peak June 18, 2009

Ash Plume Overlying Clouds at Sarychev Peak
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Sarychev Peak Eruption, Kuril Islands

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Ray
June 23, 2009 11:06 am

Magnificant picture. You can see the vapour condensing at high altitude.

hotrod
June 23, 2009 11:18 am

That “steam bubble” looks to me to be a Pilius cap like you see over a thunderstorm tower when it rises very rapidly and pushes upper level air above the LCL.
http://www.stormeyes.org/tornado/SkyPix/pileus.htm
Larry

skeptic
June 23, 2009 11:41 am

Beautiful!

dave andrews
June 23, 2009 11:42 am

I wonder how much cooling this will be good for?

PaulH
June 23, 2009 11:47 am

Very cool picture. I think it’ll be my new desktop background. 🙂

don't tarp me bro
June 23, 2009 11:50 am

Photography gets gooder and gooder.
This of course feeds CO2 into the atmosphere. It also can generate heat for the Ocean currents and influenfce the PDO. In the “climate models” these events are totally disregarded.

MikeN
June 23, 2009 12:05 pm

Yes, how big is this eruption? Is it so big that all cooling will be blamed on this volcanic eruption(including the amount that’s already happened?)

CPT. Charles
June 23, 2009 12:11 pm

Now that’s a big boom.
So much the ’09 GSG allocations.

George E. Smith
June 23, 2009 12:15 pm

Notice how that high cloud right in the center is heating the ground.
Damn nice of that ring of clouds to open up so you could see the ground melting.
Yes I think I’m convinced clouds do heat the ground.
I wonder how much hot air is rising from that ground the cloud is heating up.
Beautiful picture; Gaia is very happy I can see.

Mark
June 23, 2009 12:15 pm

You are right, that is a stunning picture.

CodeTech
June 23, 2009 12:29 pm

I’d be interested in comparisons between an event like this and a nuclear explosion. Except Nukes don’t put the huge volume of particles into the atmosphere. How big is this cloud? What megatonnage would be required to make a similar sized cloud? How can greenie-types compare their nightmares of nuclear winters with natural events like this? How can AGW proponents simultaneously believe that nuclear winter is possible, but natural cooling periods from volcanic activity or an inactive sun are not?
Anyway, BEAUTIFUL picture! I’m printing an 8×10 to frame.

Richard Patton
June 23, 2009 12:31 pm

@PaulH
Desktop? I’m going to print this out and put it on the wall behind my PC!!!

Joel
June 23, 2009 12:52 pm

Wow.

Rossa
June 23, 2009 12:56 pm

Ah ha! One of the world’s big polluters going off I see. Just in time for Hansen’s debate. Nice of mother nature to put on such a big show….the fireworks are fantastic!
With Obama saying “At a time of great fiscal challenges, this legislation is paid for by the polluters who currently emit the dangerous carbon emissions that contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air we breathe,” (from Tom Nelson’s blog) then surely Congress and the EPA need to find a way to cap all the active volcanoes to stop their emission of that well known contaminant and pollutant CO2.
By the time we’ve all stopped breathing out and all the plants have died there’ll be no-one left to drink all the Coca Cola, Pepsi, Dr Peppers, 7UP, beer, cider, champagne……et al. Way to go folks!

markinaustin
June 23, 2009 1:03 pm

“gooder and gooder”
not to be the grammar police, but i am fairly certain you meant “more gooder and more gooder.”

janama
June 23, 2009 1:09 pm

In ’91 I flew by Mt Pinatubo’s eruption on a flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong. The volcano had erupted just after we took off. We were at 30,000ft (10,000m) and the cloud extended above us further than I could see from my window seat. The dark cloud had lightning flashes going on. The pilot never said a word and we veered away and flew around it. I didn’t know what it was until we reached HK and saw the local newspaper.

June 23, 2009 1:19 pm

Joel (12:52:49) :
Wow.
Yeah… Wow! The description of the volcano features is quite clear and accurate. I only have a comment about the upper left and central left quadrants of the photo: the cloud seems to be dispersed brown ash and water vapor. Am I right?

don't tarp me bro
June 23, 2009 1:31 pm

Can we request the EPA visit the site and issue fines and reprimands?
I have a friend that works on Sakhalin Island doing refinery work for a co venture with Exxon.
Must be rather dark during the day.

carlbrannen
June 23, 2009 1:31 pm

“As air sinks, it tends to warm and expand; clouds in the air evaporate.”
LOL

Mr Green Genes
June 23, 2009 1:32 pm

markinaustin (13:03:51) :
“gooder and gooder”
not to be the grammar police, but i am fairly certain you meant “more gooder and more gooder.”

In my bit of England-land we say “gooderer and gooderer”.

stumpy
June 23, 2009 1:39 pm

what a pic, how its punched through the cloud and the water vapourising at the top. Cool

Sandy
June 23, 2009 1:40 pm

Good thing Hansen got arrested. This is Gaia’s submission to the Mountain Top Removal debate, which is fairly unanswerable.
This shouldn’t be looked at in terms of a nuke but rather as a tornado/supercell thunderstorm. Understanding the hyper-meteorology of geothermal fed tornados (Tambora) or red-spot scale hyper-hurricanes (any self-respecting flood-basalt) is something that’ll require cross-fertilization of vulcanology and meteorology.

wws
June 23, 2009 1:44 pm

“Gaia is very happy I can see.”
Happy???? Watchoo talkin’ bout, Willis?
Just look at that mushroom cloud!!! Gaia done dropped the big one on us, man!!!

Milwaukee Bob
June 23, 2009 1:49 pm

WOWZER!
“gooder and gooder”?
“more gooder and more gooder.”??
“gooderer and gooderer”???
In summary then – “the goodest”?

June 23, 2009 2:04 pm

the most goodest?

June 23, 2009 2:10 pm

I would like to offer the suggestion that the hole in the cloud is created by radiant heat (infra red) from the volcano plume (micro sized hot rock) being absorbed into the water mist of a cloud – evaporating it.
Of course we know, water absorbes IR much better than Air or CO2 so the IR energy could pass to the water without heating the surrounding air.

June 23, 2009 2:11 pm

Oh yeah, I forgot. Great photo!

Ray
June 23, 2009 2:26 pm

Like Al Gore said: “The Earth is running a fever.”
I guess that was a big Earth sneeze… Gesundheit!
REPLY: so what does that make lava bombs?

Ray
June 23, 2009 2:35 pm

Jeff Id (14:10:36) :
I think this is all a question of dew point of the air at that altitude.
As you know, clouds form when the dew point temperature is equal or hier than the ambient temperature. The more water in the air, the higher the dew point is. Dry air has a very low dew point.
So, if the volcanic plume and “shockwave” would have pushed the cloud cover to higher altitude, that would have just made a big “bubble” in the clouds and not a hole.
Sucking down the cloud layer would bring it to a warmer temperature and that would dissipate the clouds.
The amount of water and its dew point in the plume will condense into clouds pretty much anywhere as soon as it comes out of the hot core. This is why radiant heat from the plume might not exactly be the explanation since we see that the plume is fairly cold on the outside.

Ray
June 23, 2009 2:37 pm

Ray (14:26:23) :
Like Al Gore said: “The Earth is running a fever.”
I guess that was a big Earth sneeze… Gesundheit!
REPLY: so what does that make lava bombs?
NASTY!

John F. Hultquist
June 23, 2009 2:55 pm

carlbrannen (13:31:31) :
“As air sinks, it tends to warm and expand; clouds in the air evaporate.”
So why not finish your thought? As air descends it is compressed, warms, and water droplets dissipate to the gaseous state. If NASA doesn’t understand this why should those reading here that have not had a basic science course?

Robin Kool
June 23, 2009 3:07 pm

“As air sinks, it tends to warm and expand…”
As air sinks, it compresses, that’s why it warms.
Atmospheric pressure is higher, the closer you come to the earth, that’s what compresses air that is forced down.
When air expands, it cools.

Louis Hissink
June 23, 2009 3:41 pm

Look out for reports describing any circular motion in the erupting volcanic clouds, possibly associated with lightning or electrical activity. A previous discovery reported and referred to in AIG News Issue 96 (www.aig.org.au) described a slow rotating vortex at the volcanic vent.
In terms of the Plasma Model, the earth is regarded as a leaky capacitor and volcanic eruptions as “leaks” discharging to the surface.
I am bush for next weeks, (drilling program) so can’t follow up on this until I get back.

Matt
June 23, 2009 3:44 pm

Ray (14:26:23) :
Like Al Gore said: “The Earth is running a fever.”
I guess that was a big Earth sneeze… Gesundheit!
REPLY: so what does that make lava bombs?
NASTY!
Lava bombs would be the boogers. LOL
I can’t see the pics and the link appears broken. Is the NASA site down or is it my PC?

Brian D
June 23, 2009 3:46 pm

Pretty healthy SO2 cloud across the N. Latitudes of N. America.
http://satepsanone.nesdis.noaa.gov/pub/OMI/OMISO2/index.html

Britannic no-see-um
June 23, 2009 3:51 pm

Good, 1905, 1906, 1914, 1918, 1919, 1924, 1933, 1943, 1946, 1948, 1976, 1978, … 1954, Dreadful vintage. 1955, Aged exceptionally well producing wines of ….. Outstanding, 1864, 1865, 1906, 1928, 1947, 1962, 1966, 1986, 1989, 1996.
54 was a real bummer, but the 09’s could be worth buying?

RoyFOMR
June 23, 2009 4:22 pm

Sandy (13:40:46) :
Good thing Hansen got arrested. This is Gaia’s submission to the Mountain Top Removal debate, which is fairly unanswerable.
Superb mate. Superb.

Ray
June 23, 2009 4:33 pm

You can go check it out on Google Earth before it blew up at 47deg00’41.20″N, 152deg06’54.56″E
You will also see that it’s sister volcano blew up also some time ago.
In anycase, I think we will have some magnificent sunset soon on the west coast.

Gary Strand
June 23, 2009 5:30 pm

Awesome pic – makes a great wallpaper.
However:
don’t tarp me bro (11:50:43) :
“This of course feeds CO2 into the atmosphere. It also can generate heat for the Ocean currents and influenfce the PDO. In the “climate models” these events are totally disregarded.”
Nope. Climate models do represent volcanic eruptions. Where did you get your information that they do not?

deadwood
June 23, 2009 5:46 pm

Pliny the Younger would recognize the feature at the top of the image where you see the pyroclastic flow dispersing over water.
I would subscribe to the hypothesis that the hole in the clouds is a product of the blast wave rather than any radiant heating. The NASA folks suggest this and point to the condensing vapor at the top of the plume as a related feature.
A truly incredible photo.
Thanks for the link Anthony!

June 23, 2009 6:33 pm

Eruptions like this happen all the time, all over the world. All the while man, in his arrogance, claims he is the primary driver of the Earth.

June 23, 2009 6:56 pm

This is why I could never be an astronaut. I would spend all my time staring out the window, watching the world go by.
Poor Redoubt gets kicked to the curb.

A.Syme
June 23, 2009 7:29 pm

Were there any predictions that this event was going to happen, or was it a total surprise?

J.Hansford
June 23, 2009 8:03 pm

That’s a bewdy! I knew that space station was good fer sumfink;-)

Pat
June 23, 2009 8:25 pm

Here’s another good one…a bit closer to home for me though.
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/38000/38994/lakeeyre_tm5_2009161_lrg.jpg

Pat
June 23, 2009 8:31 pm

Sorry, should have stated what and where, usually dry Lake Eyre in South Australia.

wes george
June 23, 2009 11:34 pm

I’m sure Gaia is quite happy, although perhaps content is a better word.
You know, in the way a cow is happily content to cut a nice, long fart in the shed after a lovely day of grazing. Ahhh. Feels good. Or gooder.
Looks like about a year of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in just that one photo. So much for our carbon credits.

Richard Heg
June 23, 2009 11:35 pm

Good to know the ISS is good for something.

L
June 24, 2009 12:18 am

Nasty? No, it’ snot.

Robert
June 24, 2009 12:27 am

Do not meddle in the affairs of mother nature, for she is fairly unanswerable.

UK Sceptic
June 24, 2009 12:45 am

Hansen organises a civil disobedience rally against global warming – it snows spectacularly.
Hansen gets himself arrested at a rally protesting against removal of mountain tops – Sarychev erupts spectacularly.
I do believe I can detect the birth of a trend here. Is there such a thing as the Hansen Effect? Jonah would be proud…

UK Sceptic
June 24, 2009 12:47 am

Oh, I forgot. That image is pretty spectacular too. Can’t wait for Redoubt to shake off that lava dome.

Halcyon
June 24, 2009 3:31 am

Like Al Gore said: “The Earth is running a fever.”
I guess that was a big Earth sneeze… Gesundheit!
REPLY: so what does that make lava bombs?
Snot rockets…as any cyclist would know!

susema
June 24, 2009 5:00 am

Tell me please……could an event like this be a non-human cause for “global-warming”?

Beano
June 24, 2009 6:00 am

susema (05:00:05) :
Tell me please……could an event like this be a non-human cause for “global-warming”?

Other way around. Big eruptions near the equator can put a lot of ejecta up into the stratosphere. If enough material gets up there it can spead around the globe and cause a slight amount of Global cooling – not warming. Read up on the 1815 ” year without summmer – eruption of Tambora Indonesia. Tambora’s eruption would have been up to 1000 times more powerful than the image as shown.
Although this is a spectacular image of a Volcanic eruption the event itself is only a relatively small one.
Caldera forming eruptions are the ones considered to really interrupt the climate.
Chaiten in Southern Chile is still very active. The eruption and ongoing activity are unprecedented in volcanological written history. It’s been continually active for over a year and is getting larger and larger daily. There is a possibility that this could erupt and reform a caldera. If this happens there could be some very interesting developments.

Arn Riewe
June 24, 2009 6:13 am

susema (05:00:05) :
“Tell me please……could an event like this be a non-human cause for “global-warming”?”
Absolutely not! I’ll make you a bet that within 48 hours if you do a google search, there will be some story of how this is a “result” of human caused global warming.

Alan the Brit
June 24, 2009 7:10 am

Isn’t Mother Nature wonderful? Just when we know how to control the climate with CO2 powered computer models, she goes & does something silly like that, no respecter of mankind I think. Fantastic picture.
‘Tis a pity JH wasn’t protesting on the top of this one at the time, it would have saved a lot of pain & heartache for everyone. Does getting onself arrested constitute an act of professional misconduct?

JeffK
June 24, 2009 7:57 am

>Nope. Climate models do represent volcanic eruptions. Where did you get your >information that they do not?
If they do, they can’t do it accurately because eruptions are random events and each random event is unique in both the length of the eruption and the amoune of ash & SO2 ejected. Any modeling would be a guesstimate or average. I mean, how can a ‘climate’ model accurately forecast a random geological event with 2 unique unknowns?
Just wondering…
Jeff

Steve Keohane
June 24, 2009 8:42 am

Cap and Tax this Mr. Waxman!

June 24, 2009 9:17 am

Does anyone have any information on the type of photo equipment that was used to capture this amazing picture (camera, format size, lens, etc.,?)
Failing that, does anyone know where I can investigate this information?

Jon
June 24, 2009 9:21 am

I sure hope the Russians are going to pay carbon taxes on all this greenhouse gas their volcano is emitting.

June 24, 2009 10:15 am

Are you sure it is not a model of a volcano?

George DeBusk
June 24, 2009 10:59 am

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is standing at Kalapana and watching Kilauea’s lava flow gently into the Pacific and 10 is Tambora blowing its top, where does this one rate?

June 24, 2009 11:27 am

@ George DeBusk (10:59:48)
There is a index called VEI, the so-called Volcanic Explosivity Index wich runs from a scale from 0 to 8.
On the low-end of the index you find volcano’s like Mauna Loa and Stromboli with both scoring a 0 wich means, daily eruptions with around 10.000 cubic meters of material comming out of the volcano.
Mount Pelee wich erupted in 1902 and would get a 4 on the VEI, Mount St. Helens scores a 5 and Mount Pinatobu gets a 6, a VEI of 6 or higher means that that eruption has the power to change temperatures and weather conditions worldwide. Mount Tambora in 1815 exploded wich such force that it scores 7 on the VEI.
And the last time that a volcano erupted with a VEI of 8 was 73.000 years ago when the Toba super erruption took place and nearly wiped humanity of the face of the earth.
Most likely the Sarychev Peak score somewhere between a 3 and 4 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index

June 24, 2009 11:35 am

Did anyone else notice the similarities between the photos from June 2009 and the ones from June 2000? There’s a difference in scale, but both the plume and the surrounding cloud cover are extremely similar. The initial photo from the 12th is a great catch, but the rest of the sequence seems to be rather routine for this volcano.

Gary Strand
June 24, 2009 1:08 pm

JeffK (07:57:08) :
“If they do, they can’t do it accurately because eruptions are random events and each random event is unique in both the length of the eruption and the amoune of ash & SO2 ejected.”
I should have been more precise – climate models do represent (via sulfate injection) known volcanic eruptions. They don’t (and cannot) predict future ones.

Bobby Lane
June 24, 2009 3:47 pm

This makes for the second notable high latitude volcanic explosion this year; the other being Mount Redoubt in Alaska. That may not be unusual for any given year, but with the climate seemingly dipping into a slightly cooler period it is interesting to see what combined effects these eruptions into the stratosphere might have. One can only speculate, but it is an interesting thought.

Les Francis
June 24, 2009 4:14 pm

Leigh (09:17:29) :
Does anyone have any information on the type of photo equipment that was used to capture this amazing picture (camera, format size, lens, etc.,?)
Failing that, does anyone know where I can investigate this information?

D2X.
NASA’s website here gives you the info.

noaaprogrammer
June 24, 2009 10:29 pm

The prior erruptions at Yellowstone were no small sneezes either.

E.M.Smith
Editor
June 25, 2009 11:00 pm

markinaustin (13:03:51) :
“gooder and gooder”
not to be the grammar police, but i am fairly certain you meant “more gooder and more gooder.”

No no no… the proper usage is “more gooderer and most gooderest”!
😉
So now that we have more volcanos going off anyone have any theories as to why that might be?…

Looker
June 30, 2009 9:54 am

Looks somewhat like Baraky Road Ice cream. Half chocolate, half vanilla, surrounded by nuts and flakes. Caution: the after taste is not what you originally thought

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