Photo Of The Day

Photo: Carlos Gutierrez Lightning bolts appear above and around the Chaiten volcano as seen from Chana, some 30 kms (19 miles) north of the volcano, as it began its first eruption in thousands of years, in southern Chile May 2, 2008. Cases of electrical storms breaking out directly above erupting volcanoes are well documented, although scientists differ on what causes them. Picture taken May 2, 2008.

Photo: Carlos Gutierrez
Lightning bolts appear above and around the Chaiten volcano as seen from Chana, some 30 kms (19 miles) north of the volcano, as it began its first eruption in thousands of years, in southern Chile May 2, 2008. Cases of electrical storms breaking out directly above erupting volcanoes are well documented, although scientists differ on what causes them. Picture taken May 2, 2008.

Lightning Storm Generated by Chilean Volcano

It’s the only thing on earth that gives the Devil nightmares. It’s what would happen if natural disasters could bolt together Voltron-style. It’s the single, best way that nature can give you the finger. It’s like every single AC/DC album cover came to life and punched your eyeballs right where it hurts.

Over 4,000 local inhabitants living in the area were forced to flee in the wake of this eruption, which is truly admirable. Volcanic Lightning (also known as a “Dirty Thunderstorm”) occurs when rock, ash, and ice particles released during a volcanic eruption accumulate and collide with enough frequency to generate an electric charge.  It’s not unlike the way a regular thunderstorm produces lightning — when ice particles in a storm cloud polarize and discharge — although volcanic lightning does so with an admittedly more spectacular effect. It seems that the Chaiten volcano activity created the perfect conditions for such a show.

As clouds of toxic ash and dust tower into the sky, they ionize the air, generating an explosive electrical storm. Colossal forks of lightning spark around the noxious plume as it spews from the volcano’s crater, creating an image of raw, terrifying energy – as if the air itself were ablaze.

The worst-case scenario is the collapse of the volcano accompanied by a “pyroclastic flow” – a devastating super-eruption of scorching dense gas and molten rock that would roll down the mountainside at 100mph or faster, incinerating and flattening all in its wake. Pyroclastic flows are also called nuees ardentes – or “burning clouds” – and are probably the single most destructive weapon in nature’s armoury, capable of flattening cities in seconds.

More Images: Geographic Phenomenon: Volcanic Lightning


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