Photo of the day

Wired’s photo of the week:

sakurajima_02.jpg

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN/GETTY IMAGES

MOUNT SAKURAJIMA ERUPTED in Japan on Tuesday, sending a plume of smoke rising more than 16,000 feet into the air. It was an astonishing sight, followed by something equally amazing.

This remarkable image shows a dirty thunderstorm raging within Showa crater on the southeastern side of the 3,665-foot volcano. Such storms occur when immense bubbles of gas pop inside the volcano, causing small but powerful explosions of incandescent rock and ash that fly hundreds of feet per second. All that ash creates friction, which creates static electricity. And that is what causes the lightning encircling the eruption.

Dirty thunderstorms typically are rare, but they’re common at Mount Sakurajima. The volcano has been at alert level three (out of five) since February, when authorities closed a 1.2-mile radius around the crater, and has seen nearly 50 eruptions this year. So the odds are it won’t be long before the mountain puts on another amazing show.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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