Friday Flotsam: Volcano lighting, Tungurahua eruption, storing carbon dioxide in lava ... and Yellowstone!

Some news for the last Friday in January:

Volcanic lightning captured over Redoubt in March 2009.

More like this

Why look for vesicular basalts with overlying sediments when CO2 can easily be trapped in sand with overlying sediments (which is just about anywhere in the oceans). In fact that's already happening in the North Sea and there are numerous plans for more of the same sort of operations around the globe.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 28 Jan 2010 #permalink

That is a really cool picture. I checked out the link about the lightning and the research that McNutt did is facinating. I never imagined that lightning could trigger a seizmic signal, but coming from a volcano I can see where it might. I wonder if any of the meteorologists, etal, have studied something like this with tstorm lightning and ground strikes. I think it would be a rather weak signal, if it registered at all, and the system would have to be very sensitive. Interesting subject.

i got to be in the Redoubt lightning.
It was frightening! The whole inlet was lit up. i couldn't
believe the area involved. i didn't hear any sound.
But spectacular.

What is happening in Chile?

By Manuel Humerea (not verified) on 29 Jan 2010 #permalink

McNutt owes me one.

Relatively silicic acid rich Redoubt ash emissions, like a silicon chip, can accumulate and conduct a static charge.

The pyroclastic ash has a very large surface area due to the poorly graded particle size distribution, which is canted towards very fine (small) particles with an enormous surface area.

Source: Particle sizes of andesitic ash fallout from vertical eruptions and co-pyroclastic flow clouds, Volcán de Colima, Mexico (2009).

These pyroclastic ash clouds rise quite high (well above the expected mixing zone), readily forming a circuit connecting high altitude charged particles to the ash source (volcano).

The unusual conditions observed during the Spurr, Augustine and Redoubt eruptions occurred during discrete periods of low Solar magnetic (Ap) and Planetary magnetic field activity (aa) activity that correlates very nicely with high charge particle density in the atmosphere (cosmic particle radiation effect is highest during solar minimum). See plot below.

(Now I happen to dislike the misguided science presented by author of the whatsupwiththat blog, but the author can plot data with the best of 'em - so we will help him out here as well. The answer to the mystery, the subject of the particularly long-winded but informative blog post, as indicated by the arrow in the plot cited above, is called a geomagnetic jerk).

At the same time, the authors of the Solar Weather website, will also have a clue why their viewers keep sending in photographic evidence of high altitude particle visual effects (gamma radiation flashes, ice particle halos, sundogs, etc) of purportedly rare phenomenon.

One post, three answers. Not bad, not bad.

I've seen lightning emerge from the vent of Sakurajima in addition to the lightning generated in the roiling ash clouds. But isn't it all produced in the same way?

@Mots: I bet it was scarry! I wish I could have been there to see it. I probably would have been scarred out of my wits, but it would have been a fantastic experience for me. I envy you in a way. Still, I understand the danger of volcanoes. I watched a program where some tourists were taken to a volcano and it decided to erupt with no warning. The scientists had checked it out and there was no indication in the gases or seizmic data that an eruption was immenent. There were two sisters there and one stayed in the bus and the other went to the summit. The good news is they both survived it, but it was one experience they don't want to repeat. I wouldn't have wanted to be there. It was scarry enough watching it.

It was different from thunderstorm lightening. You expect thunderstorm lightening to 'come from above'(i know it discharges differently; but our experience of it is from the sky).... but this stuff could just discharge next to You. It was like walking thu a thunderstorm cloud. Scary.
My poor kids walked home from high school years ago during
an ash fall and the lightening was going off all around them.

@Mots and Roland: Yeeouwza! I bet having that stuff going off around you would be very scarry. That pic, Roland is sooo cool. I had not seen that one.

Just goes to show how powerful these monsters are. Even so called small eruptions are not to be taken too lightly. Still they are interesting and facinating to see from a save distance. Cook Inlet is not that safe from Redoubt. It spewed ash for a long way. And that ash can cause silicosis so it is not good to be out in it. But, then, everybody here knows that.

Even smoke from fires is dangerous because of the particulate matterial carried in the smoke.

BTW, I worry more about a fire coming here than I do about a volcano going off. Just think about all the smoke CA had a couple of years ago. Smoke for six weeks! Thick smoke. There have been fires close to town and the smoke was so thick you couldn't see across the road! Volcanic ash and vog are like that and it make you miserable. The point is, fires, floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, earthquakes happen. I'm in a fire prone area. Some of you live in a flood prone area. There are volcanic prone areas. We all have things to deal with if we have some kind of plan as to how to deal with these things it helps.

Mots, if Redoubt goes off again, if you can, take pic and tell us about what is was like. I know you have done that already. Just hearing what you saw and heard and felt is worth a lot.


I have some good info on preparedness. Go to

On the left side of the page, there is a purple box. Click on site map. When that page comes up, there will be pink boxes. The one you want is on the left and you scroll down until you find the 11 points of being prepared for evacuation. It is pretty thorough. Be sure to read the blurb at the bottom of the page. It will give you an idea of how long ,even when prepared, it can take to get all you want into cars and such. So now is the time to decide what you want to take with you and what you can leave behind.

For smoke and ash, you will need 3M N95 masks as a minimum. Ash is generally silica and can be very small. We are talking -.03 microns here! That will go through the inexpensive masks you get at the hardware store. I have seen a lab safety film that showed dry silica going through a #100,000 classifier (that is 100,000 X 100,000 holes/sq"!) and water did not go through! So just think about it and have some masks on hand for anything that has particulates. The N95s are also better for virus protection in case of a breakout.

Hope this helps.

good info on the masks, I did not know that.

We don't need to sequester any CO2.
Please stop the hoax based on semi science, fraud and spin.

By Ron de Haan (not verified) on 30 Jan 2010 #permalink

@Fitz: You are very welcome. I did make a typo. I put .03 microns and it should be 0.3 microns. It still will go though the regular masks they sell in hardware stores. Silica is nasty stuff.

@Ron de Haan: I believe Erik knows we don't need to store CO2. He is just showing us some more stuff that some people think is the way to go. More arglebargle.

By the way, the photo that Roland (comment #7) linked is of the initial Plinian phase of the Chaitén eruption in May 2008. It was originally published in the Chilean newspaper "Las Ultimas Noticias" on 4 May 2008 ( - go to "Ediciones anteriores" to find the issue of that day). The photo is one of a whole series, some of the most awesome volcano photography I've ever seen!