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Erupting Volcanic Lightning!
Your daily dose of awe: a volcanic eruption showing lava bubbling out of the caldera, a towering plume of ash, and lightning coursing up the ash cloud.
Yeah. Tell me you’re gonna see something cooler than that today.
The volcano is named Colima, a 3,800-meter-high stratovolcano on Mexico’s west coast. It may be less famous than its bigger brother Popocatépetl, but its Mexico’s most active volcano at the moment; it’s erupted dozens of times over the past few centuries, including a big one in 1913.
It erupted again in 2005, and then, in November 2014 it started a series of eruptions that are ongoing. Photographer (and amateur astronomer) César Cantú took this shot on Sunday night. The six-second exposure blurs the ash cloud a bit but caught that amazing lightning blot.
Here’s another shot:
Lightning in ash clouds is relatively common. It’s thought to be due to static charge building up as the rough, glassy particles of ash rub against each violently in the plume. I’ve been to a few volcanoes in my time, but only one active, and nothing like this. Seeing lightning in an erupting ash cloud is now on my must-see list.
Update (Apr. 1, 2015 at 14:45 UTC): Cantú created a time-lapse animation from a series of pictures he took, showing an eruptive burst from Colima. It covers two minutes of real time, and you can see the plume blasting upward, an ash cloud flowing down the volcano's flank, and some lava peeking through the maelstrom.
Cantú’s work has been featured on my blog many times; below is a list of articles I’ve written about his work. You can follow him on Facebook, too.