Volcano Being 'Reborn' Observed by Scientists for the First Time

A volcano in Russia that collapsed in 1959 has been observed growing back to almost its original size—marking the first time scientists have witnessed the "rebirth" of a volcano.

The Bezymianny volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East was photographed by Soviet scientists in the 1950s after a collapse of its eastern sector. Recent satellite data has allowed researchers from Russia, Germany and Italy to reanalyze the site to show how it has changed over the last seven decades.

Their findings, presented in the Nature journal Communications Earth and Environment, show that Bezymianny has undergone re-growth at different vents located around 1,300 feet apart.

Volcanoes are known to decay over time, with their deterioration often coming with catastrophic consequences. After collapsing, they can be "reborn," growing from their own remains. "Continued post-collapse volcanic activity can cause the rise of a new edifice," the team wrote. "However, details of such edifice rebirth have not been documented yet. Here, we present 7-decade-long photogrammetric data for Bezymianny volcano, Kamchatka, showing its evolution after the 1956 sector collapse."

Bezymianny volcano
Animation showing the regrowth of Bezymianny volcano in Russia. GFZ

The team found that the initial "rebirth" started with two lava domes coming from two distinct vents. Two decades later, these vents started to get closer, coming to a distance of around 650 feet from each other. After 50 years, the team found volcanic activity focused within a single vent that developed a cone and summit crater.

The researchers estimate the volcano will have grown back to its pre-collapse size within the next 15 years. At present, the volcano is adding around 26,400 cubic meters of mass every day, equivalent to around 1,000 large dump trucks every 24 hours.

Understanding how volcanoes regrow after collapse is important as it could help how sudden changes take place. Earlier this year, a different team of scientists published research warning that one of South America's most prominent volcanoes—the Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador, also known as the Black Giant—was showing signs of collapse. A collapse, they said, would have the potential to cause significant damage to the local area.

In the latest study, the researchers also say the regrowth observed suggests volcanoes are built back up so they are similar to the structure that existed before. This could help predict the point at which the next collapse will take place. Study co-author Thomas Walter, from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, said in a statement: "Our results show that the decay and re-growth of a volcano has a major impact on the pathways of the magma in the depth...Disintegrated and newly grown volcanoes show a kind of memory of their altered field of stress."

Russia’s Bezymianny volcano
Russia’s Bezymianny volcano GFZ