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The Kuril Islands Region
These two CAVW regions are combined here, since most of their volcanoes form a continuous arc with a shared history and tectonic setting. Although the CAVW organizers could have originally combined the Kuriles and Kamchatka as Region 09 and used 10 for the volcanoes of mainland Asia, few if any inland volcanoes were recognized at the time. The original CAVW grouping was 'Kamchatka and Manchuria', but by the time of publication (1958) this had been widened to 'Kamchatka and continental areas of Asia.' Nevertheless, only 5 mainland volcanoes were listed in that catalog, as opposed to 26 here; an increase exceeded only by the gains in Region 12 (Western US and Canada).
Russian explorers reached Siberia's Pacific coast in 1637 and the Kamchatka Peninsula by 1697, also the year of its first eruption report (on Kliuchevskoi, the region's most vigorous volcano). Two other Kamchatkan volcanoes are known to have erupted in the 17th century, Mutnovsky and Koshelev, but the first historical eruptions from the Kurile Islands were early in the 18th. Peter the Great's epic exploring expedition, led by Vitus Bering from 1733 to 1742, mapped the east coast of Kamchatka, and La Perouse explored the Kuriles by sea in 1787. The Kuriles have been contested by Japan and Russia, and Japan held the islands from 1875 to the end of WW-II. Heavy colonization of Kamchatka began early in the 19th century, and in 1904 the Trans-Siberian Railroad opened, linking Europe to Vladivostok (and China). Of Kamchatka's 306 historically documented eruptions, nearly 90% have been since 1800 AD and nearly three-fourths since 1900.
As with the rest of the NW Pacific, subduction of the Pacific Plate has produced the vigorous explosive volcanism of the Kurile-Kamchatka arc, but tensional volcanism dominates the mainland part of the region. The Baikal rift, for example, includes young basaltic cinder cones as well as the world's deepest lake. The contrast between Kamchatka and the mainland remains strong in the timing of historical volcanism, with that on the Asian mainland having begun early but been infrequent in recent centuries. Four volcanoes had erupted by mid-17th century (the time of the first historical Kamchatkan eruption), the first being the Tianshan Group in the 1st and 7th centuries AD. One of the world's largest Holocene eruptions, only recently receiving volcanological attention, took place at Changbaishan (Baitoushan) on the China/Korea border, in the 11th century AD. Mainland Asia's most recent eruptions are Wudalianchi in Manchuria in 1719-21 and 1776, Changbaishan in 1903, and the Kunlun volcano group in western China in 1951.
The Kuriles and Kamchatka are sparsely populated and among the 4 smallest CAVW regions. The Kamchatka peninsula holds about 450,000 people, most in its largest city, Petropavlovsk. The population of the Kuriles declined from about 30,000 to about 16,000 following a major earthquake in 1994, and most reside in the 3 southern islands of Kunishir, Iturup, and Urup. The addition of mainland Asia, however, makes region 10 easily the most heavily populated, and (with the possible exception of Antarctica) the largest.
Regular monitoring of Kamchatkan volcanoes began in 1935 when the Kamchatka Volcanological Station was founded in Petropavlovsk. This grew into the Institute of Volcanology, the largest in the world, and was split into the IV and the Institute for Volcanic Geology and Geophysics in 1991. Observation of Kurile volcanoes is largely done by the Institute of Volcanology and Geodynamics in Sakhalin.
This region currently has the third largest number of undated Holocene volcanoes (70) next to 87 for South America and 101 for Africa. This number for Kamchatka and Mainland Asia has gone down significantly since the 2nd edition (105) as detailed stratigraphic studies of Kamchatka volcanoes have refined the ages of Kamchatka volcanoes and led to the second highest regional totals for eruptions dated by radiocarbon or tephrochronology (448), trailing only Japan. Kamchatka and Mainland Asia is tied for third with Africa and Japan (140), and behind Indonesia (144) and South America (194) in total number of known or possible Holocene volcanoes, and trails only Japan (114) in the number of the number of volcanoes with average VEIs of 3 or larger and in large (VEI ?4) eruptions (102). No other region has a higher proportion of explosive eruptions (95%) or a higher number of dated Holocene caldera-forming eruptions; Ksudach volcano with four leads the world in this category. Kamchatka leads the world in the number of eruptions forming lava domes, led by repeated dome growth at Bezymianny and Shiveluch volcanoes, both of which have undergone large-scale edifice collapse producing debris avalanches in historical time. Kamchatka also has the largest number of shield volcanoes (44), mostly in the Sredinny Range on the western side of the peninsula. Many volcanoes in this range were considered to be of Holocene age due to morphology and degree of glacial modification, but later work has cast doubt on the age of these volcanoes, many of which could be of late Pleistocene age. Their Status has been downgraded in this compilation to 'Holocene?,' reflecting the uncertainty of their age in the absence of dated eruptions.
List of Holocene volcanoes in the Kuril Islands region.