Sicily’s Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe, is erupting, producing thick clouds of ash and smoke. That in turn has produced lightning inside the cloud, captured in a stunning series of photographs.
In normal storm clouds friction between rubbing ice particles generate a charge, with positively charged particles at the top and negatively charged particles near the bottom. Once the difference in charge is great enough the lightning bolt is produced, neutralising the cloud.
While the exact reason why this “dirty thunderstorm” occurs is highly debated, one prevailing theory is that charge is built up as a result of the movement of ash and other ejected material within the cloud. Instead of ice in a regular storm cloud, the ash particles collide, generating a charge and producing lightning in the volcanic plume.
Originally published by Cosmos as Mt Etna erupts with ‘dirty thunderstorm’
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.