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Rare lava lake

04 July 2019

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Mount Michael is an active stratovolcano on the remote Saunders Island, one of the South Sandwich Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean. In situ observations of the volcano prove difficult owing to its remote location and the fact that it is almost 1000 m high and difficult to climb. However, modern satellite imagery can help survey isolated locations such as these.

In these images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission on 29 March 2018, a distinct hotspot can be seen in orange in the crater of the volcano. The true-colour image shows volcanic ash over the snow and smoke plumes coming from its crater, drifting south-eastwards.

The assessment of Mount Michael's lava lake is presented in a recent report in Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. By using modern satellites, including the US Landsat, Copernicus Sentinel-2 and the US Terra missions, monitoring activity and thermal anomalies within the crater is now possible.

The paper confirms that the rare lava lake is a continuous feature inside Mount Michael's crater, with a temperature of approximately 1000 °C.

Only a handful of other volcanoes in the world are currently hosting persistent lava lakes – Masaya volcano, Mount Nyiragongo, Kīlauea, Mount Erebus, Mount Yasur, Ambrym and Erta Ale.

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