Signs of an Eruption on Heard Island

Signs of an Eruption on Heard Island

Clad in pristine snow and glacial ice, Mawson Peak appears quiet. However, reports by Volcano Live and heat signatures detected by a satellite suggest recent activity at the volcano.

Although not definitive, this natural-color satellite image also suggests an ongoing eruption. The dark summit crater—much darker than Mawson’s shaded southwestern face—is at least partially snow-free. There is also a faint hint of an even darker area—perhaps a lava flow—within. Shortwave infrared data shows hot surfaces within the crater, indicating the presence of lava in or just beneath the crater. Heavy cloud cover camouflaged what may have been a plume that erupted less than an hour after the image above was captured.

Because the volcano is located on the inaccessible Heard Island, 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) north of Antarctica and 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) southeast of Africa, satellites are the primary means of monitoring Mawson Peak. This image was acquired on October 13, 2012 by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.

Images & Animations


File Dimensions

  • 720x480
  • JPEG
  • 4513x4513
  • JPEG 2 MB
  • KML 79 KB

Note: Often times, due to the size, browsers have a difficult time opening and displaying images. If you experiece an error when clicking on an image link, please try directly downloading the image (using a right click, save as method) to view it locally.


  • Data Date:

    October 13, 2012
  • Visualization Date:

    October 23, 2012
  • Sensor(s):

    EO-1 - ALI
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration