Volcanoes of the Kurile Islands

Northern Kuriles | Central Kuriles | Southern Kuriles

This photograph, taken from the Space Shuttle, shows the Kurile Islands volcanic arc. The view is towards the southwest. The islands of Paramushir and Onekotan are in the foreground.

The Kurile Islands are a volcanic arc made of about 45 volcanoes on 20 islands.

This simple geologic map shows the tectonics of the Kurile region. The Eurasian plate is moving to the southeast. The Pacific plate is moving to the northwest. The teeth are a symbol geologist use on maps to indicate a plate (or block of rock) that is pushed over/on top of an adjacent plate. In this case, the lighter Eurasian plate, made of lighter continental crust and underlying mantle, rides over the denser Pacific plate. The Pacific plate is denser because it is made mostly of basalt.

The volcanoes are the result of subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the Eurasian plate. Fluids that leave the subducted plate help to melt the asthenospheric mantle (the mantle beneath the plate). The melting produces magma that rises through the Eurasian plate to feed the volcanoes of the Kurile Islands.

The volcanoes are grouped by the islands they form. The islands are divided into three groups:

  • Northern Kurile Islands
  • Central Kurile Islands
  • Southern Kurile Islands

    Numbers assigned to each volcano correspond to those in Simkin and Siebert Volcanoes of the World for Region 9.

    Many of the Kurile volcanoes are somma volcanoes like Vesuvius. A somma volcano has a circular or crescentic ridge that is steep on its inner side and represents the rim of an earlier volcanic crater of caldera.

    Detailed maps of the Kurile Islands and information about biological surveys of the islands are available at the homepage of the Internation Kurile Island Project.

    Sources of Information:

    Erlich, E.N., and Melekestev, I.V., 1972, Evolution of Quaternary volcanism and tectonics in the western part of the pacific Ring: Pacific Geology, v. 4, p. 1-22.

    Erlich, E.N., 1986, geology of the calderas of Kamchatka and Kurile Islands with comparison to celaderas of japan and the Aleutians, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report, 86-291, 300 p.

    Gorshkov, G.S., 1958, Kurile Islands. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World, Rome: IAVCEI, 7: 1-99.

    Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the World: Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona, 349 p.

    Images of Volcanoes To VolcanoWorld