I’m not sure if a natural phenomenon exists that’s cooler than volcanic lighting. You might remember these electric anomalies from the day Goku went Super Saiyan for the first time, and just like on Namek, here on Earth they can only be witnessed during times of “violent geological unrest.” In other words? Around very angry volcanoes.
As Kyle explained, the so-called “dirty thunderstorms” (yes, really), are caused by a charge separation–the same thing that lets you shock an unexpected friend after rubbing your socks on the carpet. When pieces of rock and ash spew out of a volcano’s fiery cauldron, they likely bring an electrical charge with them. As the large ash cloud forms above, it eventually encounters the atmosphere, causing all of these particles to bump into each other.
This is where things start to get dicey: all of that tumbling around creates even more charges within the cloud, and because of aerodynamics, those charges begin to separate. What this means that there is an unbalance, where some sections of the cloud are more negative or positive than others. Nature is pretty good at balancing itself, and in this case, the scales are tipped by a blinding bolt of lighting, which rips through the cloud to neutralize it.
The most predictable place to witness volcanic lighting is over Japan’s Sakurajima volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. But this video, shot by the crew at BBC Earth, was filmed in Patagonia. South America’s slice of paradise is renowned for its epic mountains and serene, snowy lakes, but unbeknownst to many-a-traveler, it’s also a volcanic hotspot. Cooler still, Patagonia is one of the only places where rhyolite–a particularly thick, silica-rich magma–has erupted in the last 50 years. The explosive substance is famed for creating massive flows of the volcanic glass obsidian, more recently known as “dragon glass.”
Volcanic lighting not enough for you? Have a dose of pyro-tornadogenesis.
IMAGES: BBC Earth/Facebook