We’ve all see impressive displays of lightning. But not everyone gets the chance to view an erupting volcano and the lightning storms that can come with it. The BBC and award-winning Chilean cinematographer Christian Muñoz-Donoso bring us one of the best videos yet of volcanic lightning.
Be amazed by a super-charged volcanic ash cloud sparked by lightning.#PATAGONIA
Posted by BBC Earth on Monday, September 28, 2015
The short video (it appears to be a time-lapse) is part of BBC Earth’s Patagonia series. I believe it’s part of this series on the BBC website. It’s only available to UK viewers, so I can’t be sure. Any UK folks want to chime in?
It’s called a dirty thunderstorm
One of the most famous photos of a ‘dirty thunderstorm’ was captured by Carlos Gutierrez during a 2008 eruption.
What causes volcanic lightning? I’ll let this Oregon State page explain:
In order for lightning to form there is one key component; a large charge separation between two masses. If the charge separation becomes big enough, it is then able to overpower the air resistance, create a path of ionized air, and conduct electricity in the form of lightning. The ash that is to be erupted begins as electrostatically neutral rock or rock fragments. Heat and movement within the volcano are thought to be the first source of particle charging, although the main process by which ash particles acquire a charge is friction. When an object (in this case ash) with a neutral charge comes in contact with another object with differing electrostatic qualities, electrons can potentially flow and one of the objects can become charged relative to the other. Think of skidding your socked feet rapidly across the carpet or rubbing a balloon quickly against your head. The same type of charge is accumulating within the ash cloud, only on a much larger scale.
This year has been quite impressive with volcanic eruptions. The Calbuco volcano erupted in Chile back in April, and several amazing pictures of volcanic lightning were captured.
Image credits: AP / Getty Images
One of my favorite volcanic eruption videos has nothing to do with lightning. Phil McNamara was a couple of miles away when he captured the initial moments of Mount Tavurvur erupting last year. Check out the shockwave before it reaches their boat. Pretty damn epic.