Piton des Neiges on Réunion Island • Earth.com

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features Piton des Neiges, or Snow Peak, an extinct shield volcano on Réunion, one of the French volcanic islands in the Mascarene Archipelago. It holds the distinction of being the highest point in the Indian Ocean, with an elevation of about 10,070 feet. 

“Despite its name, the peak is rarely snowy, but the surrounding landscape features lengthy hiking trails and a variety of rare plants and animals,” says NASA.

Piton des Neiges is of great geological interest because it’s the primary reason for the existence of Réunion Island itself.

“Located 700 kilometers (440 miles) east of Madagascar, Réunion Island likely originated from a tectonic hot spot on the ocean floor, emerging above the ocean surface about 2 million years ago,” says NASA.

“The island is dominated by two towering volcanoes: the dormant Piton des Neiges and the highly active Piton de la Fournaise. The two volcanoes can be seen in the image above, acquired by the OLI (Operational Land Imager) on Landsat 8 on May 23, 2022.”

Piton des Neiges is no longer active, with its last eruption estimated to have occurred around 12,000 years ago. Its long dormancy has allowed for extensive erosion, shaping its current rugged and dramatic landscape. 

The peak and its surrounding areas are renowned for their breathtaking natural beauty, featuring a mix of lush forests, steep cliffs, and unique wildlife. 

Piton des Neiges is a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. The climb to the summit, while challenging, rewards adventurers with spectacular panoramic views of the island and the Indian Ocean. The hike typically takes two days, with several trails and mountain huts available for accommodation along the way.

Additionally, Piton des Neiges plays a crucial role in the island’s water cycle. Its high altitude and topography capture moisture from the clouds, contributing significantly to the island’s freshwater resources. This natural phenomenon also supports diverse ecosystems at different altitudes, making it an important site for ecological studies.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

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