What I like to Call Mother Nature’s Version of Fireworks

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January is volcano awareness month…for Hawaii anyways.  This is where our journey begins. Volcanoes can produce large amounts of ash, lava, and even volcanic lightning.

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In order for lightning to form there has to be a large charge separation between two masses. If the charge separation is large enough to overcome air resistance it can create a path of ionized air which conducts electricity forming lightning. The way that volcanic lightning is formed is by ash, which begins as a neutral (not positively or negatively charged). creating friction with the air causing it to become charged. A way to better understand this is by rubbing a balloon on a cat and watching the balloon stick to the cat for a small amount of time.

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Volcanic lightning can have many different shapes or forms.  It can be seen in ball lightning, bolt lightning, sheet lightning, or a combination.

Photos: Oregon State University

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