In late April and early May 2016, satellite sensors detected signs of a volcanic eruption in the far South Atlantic Ocean between South America and Antarctica. Mount Sourabaya, a stratovolcano on Bristol Island, appeared to be erupting for the first time in 60 years. There are no human residents of the island, which is almost always covered in glacial ice and snow.
In the accompanying image, the Landsat 8 satellite captures the heat signature (red-orange) of what is likely hot lava, while white plumes trail away from the crater. The sensor-band combination makes the island’s ice cover appear bright blue-green.
With a roughly rectangular shape that is 12 kilometers by 14 kilometers, Bristol Island is one of the largest in the South Sandwich Islands chain. The highest peak on the island stands 1,100 meters above sea level. Due to the remote location and lack of landing sites amidst its ice cap, the stratovolcano is one of the least studied in the world. The last known eruption on Bristol Island was reported in 1956.
The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite acquired this false-color image on May 1, 2016, built from a combination of shortwave-infrared, near-infrared and red light (Landsat bands 6-5-4). (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey)