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Climate, Geology and Economy

Although the peninsula lies at similar latitudes to Great Britain cold arctic winds from the Siberian Anticyclone combined with the cold Oya-Shio sea current result in the peninsula being snow-covered from October to late May. But the short summer is pleasantly warm and all living creatures and plants must make full use of it. As soon as the snows melt the land comes to life and meadows and hillsides are covered in a profusion of flowers.

Kamchatka owes its rocks, seismic activity and volcanism to the north westerly movement (circa 8cm per year) of the Pacific tectonic plate against the north-east Russian continental plate. This one of the world's finest example of large scale subduction of an oceanic plate at a very active convergent boundary. The result is a chain of large volcanoes, many of which are often little over 20,000 years old and several ash cones have appeared in the last few years. Occasionally activity is explosive as was the case in 2000 on Mutnovski Volcano where a 500m wide crater appeared in the middle of the glacier found in the caldera.

The chain of volcanoes continues southwards along the Pacific margin, through the Kuril Islands and hence to Japan. North-eastwards the volcanoes continue along the line of the Aleutian Islands and on into Alaska. The height of the volcanoes combined with the long cold winters results in many of the higher volcanoes being glaciated.

Although there is considerable mineral wealth in the peninsula it is only exploited to a very small extent, the small population, lack of roads and severe winter conditions prevent viable exploitation. Most of the economy is based on the fishery industry that exports its rich produce including cod, sardines and pacific salmon to Japan, China, Korea and the rest of Russia.

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© Andrew Wielochowski 2/9/2014.