The Kuril Island chain is built from a line of volcanoes, an island arc, that extends from Russia’s Kamchatka
Peninsula to northern Japan. Island arcs form along an active boundary
between two tectonic plates, with one being driven beneath the other
(subduction). Magma generated by subduction feeds volcanoes—and
eventually volcanic islands—over the subduction boundary.
Paramushir Island in the northern Kurils is an example of a large
island built by several volcanoes over geologic time. This astronaut
photograph shows the southern end of Paramushir Island after a snowfall.
The western slopes of the mountains are brightly illuminated, while the
eastern slopes are in shadow.
Four major volcanic centers create this part of the island. Fuss Peak
(image center left) is an isolated stratovolcano
connected to the main island via an isthmus. Fuss Peak last erupted in
The southern tip of the island is occupied by the Karpinsky Group of
three volcanic centers. A minor eruption of ash following an earthquake
occurred on this part of the island in 1952.
The Lomonosov Group to the northeast (image center) includes four cinder
cones and a lava dome
that produced several lava flows in the past, but there have been no
eruptions from the Lomonosov Group in recorded history.
The most recent volcanic activity on Paramushir Island occurred in
2008 at the Chikurachki cone located along the northern coastline of the
island at image top center. The summit of this volcano [1,816 meters
(5,958 feet) above sea level] is the highest on Paramushir Island.
Much of the Sea of Okhotsk visible in the image is covered with low
clouds that often form around the islands in the Kuril chain. The clouds
are generated by moisture-laden air passing over the cool sea/ocean
water, and they typically wrap around the volcanic islands.
Astronaut photograph ISS023-E-41934
was acquired on May 12, 2010, with a Nikon D3 digital camera using an
effective 280 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth
Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition
23 crew. The image in this article has been cropped and enhanced to
improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International
Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS
National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be
of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those
images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by
astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of
Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.