BTS 010: Volcanic Lightning in Dirty Thunderstorms

BTS 010: Volcanic Lightning in Dirty Thunderstorms
Photo Credit: Martin Bernetti

Photo Credit: Martin Bernetti

Over the past week, many had been in awe by the Chile Volcano as its ash plume towers into the skies with the Sun casting a beautiful palate of colours.

At night, the Chile Volcano erupted a second time, this time producing a dazzling show of fire and lightning - one can say it was Nature's pyrotechnic spectacular.

Possible only to larger volcanic eruptions, not much is understood about volcanic lightning.

Also known as dirty thunderstorms, the source of charge that makes volcanic lightning possible is still hotly debated - It could be that the materials spewed out during the eruption already carry electrical charges that causes lightning to occur.

Another hypothesis is the interaction between the highly energised air and gas with the cooler particles of the atmosphere.

Photo Credit: Brentwood Higman / Geology.com

Photo Credit: Brentwood Higman / Geology.com

Either ways, it is largely agreed upon that volcanic lightning starts with a process called "charge separation", some positively and negatively charged particles are separated, creation sections that are more positive or more negative than other sections.

Once the difference becomes too great, electricity flows between the sections as Nature tries to bring them to a state of balance. The result of this attempt is lightning.

Look deeper and you will find out that volcanic lightning, or simply lightning in general, are incredibly mysterious. Their unpredictability makes it difficult to study, and it seems there may be different types of volcanic lightning as well.

You can take a deeper look into the phenomenon by starting with this write-up by Brentwood Higman on Geology.com.

(Via: Mashable, io9, Geology.com)

Photo Credit: Martin Bernetti

Photo Credit: Martin Bernetti

Photo Credit: Francisco Negroni

Photo Credit: Francisco Negroni


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