Ice floes along the Kamchatka coastline
ISS030-E-162344 (15 March 2012) --- Ice floes along the Kamchatka coastline are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 30 crew member on the International Space Station. The vantage point from orbit frequently affords the opportunity to observe processes that are impossible to see on the ground – or in this case the northeastern Pacific Ocean. The winter season blankets the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia in snow, but significant amounts of sea ice can also form and collect along the coastline. As ice floes grind against each other, they produce smaller floes that can be moved by wind and water currents acting along the coastline. The irregular southeastern coastline of Kamchatka helps to produce large circular eddy currents from the main southwestward-flowing Kamchatka current. Three such eddies are clearly highlighted by surface ice floe patterns at center. The ice patterns are very difficult (and dangerous) to navigate in an ocean vessel – while the floes may look thin and delicate from the space station vantage point, even the smaller ice chunks are likely several meters across. White clouds at top right are distinguished from the sea ice and snow cover in the image by their high brightness and discontinuous nature. The Kamchatka Peninsula also hosts many currently and historically active stratovolcanoes. Kliuchevskoi Volcano, the highest in Kamchatka (summit elevation 4,835 meters) and one of the most active, had its most recent confirmed eruption in June of 2011, while Karymsky Volcano to the south likely produced ash plumes days before this image was taken; the snow cover near the volcano to the south and east of the summit is darkened, probably due to a cover of fresh ash, or melted away altogether (bottom center). In contrast, Kronotsky Volcano – a “textbook” symmetrical cone-shaped stratovolcano – last erupted in 1923.