Morphometric and morphological development of Holocene cinder cones: A field and remote sensing study in the Tolbachik volcanic field, Kamchatka

Moshe Inbar, Michael Gilichinsky, Ivan Melekestsev, Dmitry Melnikov, Natasha Zaretskaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The evolution of landscape over time is a central aspect of geological, paleogeographical and geomorphological studies. Volcanic features like cinder cones offer the opportunity to monitor the processes and development of the landscape. Cinder cones are perhaps the simplest and most common volcanic landforms in the world. Morphological and morphometric study of cinder cones has proven an efficient tool for determining their relative dates, and the erosional processes affecting them. The extensive Kamchatka volcanic province (Russian Far East), with its large Tolbachik cinder cone field, is an excellent case study for spatial and temporal classification and calibration of changes in morphometric values with time. We show how the morphological and morphometric values of the monogenetic cinder cones, measured in the field and by digital elevation models, can be used to validate their age and erosional processes. Field data were GPS measurements of cinder cones formed at the Tolbachik 1975-1976 eruption and of Holocene cinder cones; erosion processes on the cinder cones and lava flows were identified and evaluated. For every studied cinder cone morphometric parameters were assessed on the basis of remotely sensed data and digital elevation model. Morphometric measurements were taken of cone height and slope and average axis diameter and the height-width ratio was obtained. The comparison of morphometric parameters calculated from ASTER DEM and topographic map clearly supports the concept of relative morphometric dating as the most recent cinder cones are always associated with the highest slopes and h/W ratio. The measured morphometric values of the recent Tolbachik cinder cones are valuable benchmark data for determining erosion rates, such as the measured values for the Paricutin cone in Mexico after the 1943 eruption. The variability of the morphometric values of the recent cinder cones is due to their lithological coarse composition. A comparison with the older cinder cones in the area shows that the climatic conditions of the Kamchatka peninsula and the slow development of vegetation cover determine a high rate of erosion and rapid change in the morphometric values, as compared to published values for other volcanic fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-311
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was supported by the Ministry of Science of Israel grant 3-3572 and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research . The authors are grateful to the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky, Russia for logistic support of the study. We thank the two reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript.


  • Cinder cones
  • Kamchatka volcanic province
  • Landscape evolution
  • Morphometry
  • Tolbachik eruption
  • Volcanic geomorphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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