Japan’s Shimnoe Volcano Erupting; Struck By Lightning
A volcano made famous in a James Bond movie continues its eruption on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Shimnoe-dake, part of a larger group of 20 volcanoes known as Kirishima, began its largest eruption in more than 50 years on Wednesday.
Mount Shimnoe (or Shimnoe-dake for Shimnoe Peak) sprang to life on Wednesday shooting ash 15,000 feet into the air. Some airline flights were cancelled and rerouted from the airport in Miyazaki, approximately 600 miles south of Tokyo.
No injuries were reported but the ash has covered nearby fields and towns with a thick coating of ash. The ballooning ash cloud was large enough to be captured in images taken by NASA satellites.
The Japanese government has prohibited anyone from entering within a 1 mile radius of the exploding mountain. On Friday the mountain continued its eruption but its intensity seemed to be subsiding.
James Bond fans may recall the volcano from “You Only Live Twice.” In the 1967 movie the villain, Ernst Blofeld, maintains a secret lair underneath the mountain.
Images of the exploding mountain showed the ash plume extending far into the sky. Some captured the amazing phenomena called ‘volcanic lightning’ or more formally as pyroclastic lightning.
Lightning as seen in normal thunderstorms is in most basic terms simply an electrical discharge. Electricity builds within a cloud and once a large enough difference of potential exists, the electricity is discharged in the form of lightning.
What actually causes that initial charge though is still a matter of debate. Many scientists believe that ice particles in a thunderstorm rub together creating the static charge. As the particles separate, the air cannot resist the electrical flow and it is discharged in the form of lightning.
Much like regular lightning, volcano-induced lightning is similarly not well understood but the process is believed to be similar.
Current theory holds that it is the particles contained within an eruption – ash, rock and ice – that rub together creating friction. Static electricity is generated and eventually discharged. Some have termed these events as ‘dirty thunderstorms’.