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Chile’s emergency and geological agencies have declared a wide exclusion zone around the volcano, and more than 4,000 people have been evacuated. But as with other heavily-photographed volcanoes, like the Sakurajima Valcano in southern Japan or the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in southern Iceland, maybe even more stunning than the towering plume or glowing lava is the lightning that can crackle from inside the ash. Over the last century or so, well over 100 different eruptions around the world have had recorded lightning in their ash clouds. Volcanic lighting (and the lightning we’re more familiar with) is like this on a giant scale. But despite all that human beings have learned over the centuries, a degree of mystery remains when it comes to lightning.
Lightning can take one of three forms, which are defined by what is at the "end" of the branch channel (i.e. Intra-cloud lightning most commonly occurs between the upper (or "anvil") portion and lower reaches of a given thunderstorm. In the case of cloud-to-cloud lightning, the charge typically originates from beneath or within the anvil and scrambles through the upper cloud layers of a thunderstorm, normally generating a lightning bolt with multiple branches. Cloud-to-ground (CG) is the best known type of lightning, though it is the third-most common a€“ accounting for approximately 25% cases worldwide. CG lightning is the best known because, unlike other forms of lightning, it terminates on a physical object (most often the Earth), and therefore lends itself to being measured by instruments.
Lighting originates when wind updrafts and downdrafts take place in the atmosphere, creating a charging mechanism that separates electric charges in clouds a€“ leaving negative charges at the bottom and positive charges at the top. When a breakdown at the bottom of the cloud creates a pocket of positive charge, an electrostatic discharge channel forms and begins traveling downwards in stepsA tens of meters in length. Many factors affect the frequency, distribution, strength and physical properties of a "typical" lightning flash in a particular region of the world. About 70% of lightning occurs over land in the tropics where atmospheric convection is the greatest. When lightning strikes sand, soil surrounding the plasma channel may melt, forming tubular structures called fulgurites. The first systematic and scientific study of lightning was performed by Benjamin Franklin during the second half of the 18th century. Franklin theorized that clouds are electrically charged, from which it followed that lightning itself was electrical.
In 1750, he published a proposal whereby a kite would be flown in a storm to attract lightning. For his upgraded version of the experiment, Franking attacked a key to the kite, which was connected via a damp string to an insulating silk ribbon wrapped around the knuckles of Franklin's hand. Little significant progress was made in understanding the properties of lightning until the late 19th century when photography and spectroscopic tools became available for lightning research.
By the 1960's, interest grew thanks to the intense competition brought on by the Space Age. In addition to ground-based lightning detection, several instruments aboard satellites have been constructed to observe lightning distribution.
This type of thunderstorm is often referred to as a "dirty thunderstorm" due to the high solid material (ash) content.A  There have been several recorded instances of volcanic lightning taking place throughout history. Lightning has been observed within the atmospheres of other planets in our Solar System, such as Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. A series of lightning strikes imaged by the Nightpod camera aboard the ISS above Rome in 2012. The imaging of the night-side hemisphere of Jupiter by the Galileo in the 1990 and by the Cassini spacecraft in December of 2000 revealed that storms are always associated with lightning on Jupiter.
In their open-access paper for Geology, Kimberly Genareau and colleagues propose, for the first time, a mechanism for the generation of glass spherules in geologic deposits through the occurrence of volcanic lightning.
The Colima volcano in Mexico is active again, and has been spewing out large plumes of ash nearly 3 kilometers into the air.
A terrifying few moments flying into the top of an active thunderstorm in a research aircraft has led to an unexpected discovery that could help explain the longstanding mystery of how lightning gets initiated inside a thunderstorm. Even though lightning is a common phenomenon, the exact mechanism triggering a lightning discharge remains elusive. Several prominent Canadian and American scientists are urging governments around the world to focus on controlling phosphorus to decrease the frequency and intensity of algal blooms in freshwaters.
Air friction would be something to begin with; on the other hand, multiple studies conducted over decades have shown that the electrical fields generated through this process are not able to create even a spark, not to talk about an electric disruptive discharge several hundred meters long.
The Earth's atmosphere is an excellent electrical insulator with relatively high breakdown voltages, so it is not very hard to believe that electric fields generated by air movements cannot easily spark lightning bolts through it. The process is commonly known as ionization, and while a particle passes through the gap between the spark electrons, it leaves a trail behind, which can be followed by other particles.
Although there are massive amounts of cosmic rays raining down on Earth, the truth it that very little can penetrate through the whole atmosphere.
Runaway breakdown basically implies that, as cosmic ray electrons travel through relatively powerful electric fields, they gain energy and then collide with atoms inside the atmosphere to generate a second electron, plus a fair amount of energy in the form of x-ray and gamma ray radiation, that would also contribute to the runaway effect.
The natural phenomenon of lightning that appears in a zigzag pattern in the sky has intrigued people across the globe for centuries together. Once the connection between the opposite charges are formed and the path is set, the positive charges leap upwards in the path to meet the negatively charged particles, thereby causing the zigzag path of the negative charges to light up. Hey if you are inhabitant of earth then you must be well acqainted with the phenomenon called lightening.
When the positive and negative charges grow large enough, a giant spark - lightning - occurs between the two charges within the cloud. Most lightning happens inside a cloud, but when the potential difference between the clouds and the ground become too large it happens between the cloud and the ground.
A build up of positive charge builds up on the ground beneath the cloud, attracted to the negative charge in the bottom of the cloud. The temperature of lightening that strikes the ground is around 27,000 oC, which is six times hotter than the surface of sun. 3d : The Real Imaginary world3d technology has changed the movie seeing experience by leaps and bound. Cloning : The new GodCloning has opened a whole new era of oppurtunities in medical science. NSTA can help you reach science educators in every discipline and at every grade level through exhibit hall booths, workshops, program advertising, and more.
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For example, when you rub a balloon on your hair, negatively charged electrons leave your hair and join the molecules on the surface of the balloon, leaving behind a net positive charge on your hair. It might surprise you that there is a more-or-less constant charge separation between the Earth and the atmosphere, no matter what the weather. Scientists believe that cosmic rays (subatomic particles traveling the universe) are largely responsible for creating this charge separation between the Earth and the atmosphere; they ionize molecules in the atmosphere through collisions. Well, if everything in the universe tends toward electric neutrality, why then don’t electrons move around until the atmosphere “discharges” itself?
Of course, I already told you that the charge separation between the Earth and the atmosphere is more-or-less constant. To fully understand what causes lightning, you need to understand what goes on in a thunderstorm.
This charge separation between the bottom of the cloud and the Earth ionizes the air between the cloud and the Earth and does so in steps. This step leader paves the way for an electric current because it’s a path of ionized particles that are primed to conduct an electric current.
The initial discharge is followed by more buildup of charge by the same mechanism (sinking water or ice droplets) that caused the charge buildup in the cloud to begin with. Sometimes the step leader comes across a pocket of positive charge in the atmosphere (created by those cosmic rays), and the lightning strike occurs without ever hitting the ground. To revisit where we started, note that each lightning bolt results in negative charges flowing to the Earth (because the bottom layer of the cloud is more negative than the Earth). This video shows a remote undersea rover picking up a bright purple blob using a tool called "slurp." Part of what I love about this clip is hearing the scientists wonder aloud about what they are looking at. Schmitty the Weather Dog will be forecasting from Chicago during NSTA's national conference!
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Earlier this week, the volcano started spewing untold tons of ash and magmatic material as high as 33,000 feet (10 kilometers) into the atmosphere. What causes a blinding streak of electricity to rip through an ash cloud is a charge separation.
Pieces of earthen material come flying out of a volcano (probably) carrying a charge along with them. When it comes to the forces of nature, few other things have inspired as much fear, reverence, or fascination a€“ not to mention legends, mythos, and religious representations. Experiments have been conducted since the time of Benjamin Franklin; however, we are still heavily reliant on theories as to how lighting behaves.

This discharge allows charged regions in the atmosphere to temporarily equalize themselves, when they strike an object on the ground.
In this case, the lightning takes the form of a discharge between a thundercloud and the ground, and is usually negative in polarity and initiated by a stepped branch moving down from the cloud.
In addition, it poses the greatest threat to life and property, so understanding its behavior is seen as a necessity. As the charge at the bottom of the cloud keeps growing, the potential difference between cloud and ground, which is positively charged, grows as well.
In the case of IC or CC lightning, this channel is then drawn to other pockets of positive charges regions.
These include ground elevation, latitude, prevailing wind currents, relative humidity, proximity to warm and cold bodies of water, etc. This occurs from both the mixture of warmer and colder air masses, as well as differences in moisture concentrations, and it generally happens at the boundaries between them.
First, there is the direct effect of a lightning strike itself, in which structural damage or even physical harm can result. Buildings or tall structures hit by lightning may be damaged as the lightning seeks unintended paths to ground. Because the plasma channel superheats the air in its immediate vicinity, the gaseous molecules undergo a rapid increase in pressure and thus expand outward from the lightning creating an audible shock wave (aka. These include x-rays and gamma rays, which have been confirmed through observations using electric field and X-ray detectors, and space-based telescopes. Prior to this, scientists had discerned how electricity could be separated into positive and negative charges and stored. Initially, he proposed testing this theory by placing iron rod next to a grounded wire, which would be held in place nearby by an insulated wax candle. In 1752, Thomas Francois D'Alibard successfully conducted the experiment in France, but used a 12 meter (40 foot) iron rod instead of a kite to generate sparks. Franklin's body, meanwhile, provided the conducting path for the electrical currents to the ground. Time-resolved photography was used by many scientists during this period to identify individual lightning strokes that make up a lightning discharge to the ground.
Wilson (1869 a€“ 1959) who was the first to use electric field measurements to estimate the structure of thunderstorm charges involved in lightning discharges. With spacecraft and satellites being sent into orbit, there were fears that lightning could post a threat to aerospace vehicles and the solid state electronics used in their computers and instrumentation. These include the Optical Transient Detector (OTD), aboard the OrbView-1 satellite launched on April 3rd, 1995, and the subsequent Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) aboard TRMM, which was launched on November 28th, 1997. For instance, the powerful ejection of enormous amounts of material and gases into the atmosphere creates a dense plume of highly charged particles, which establishes the perfect conditions for lightning. For example, during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, Pliny the Younger noted several powerful and frequent flashes taking place around the volcanic plume. In the case of Venus, the first indications that lightning may be present in the upper atmosphere were observed by the Soviet Venera and U.S.
They are believed to be the result of moist convection with Jupiter's troposphere, where convective plumes bring wet air up from the depths to the upper parts of the atmosphere, where it then condenses into clouds of about 1000 km in size. While lighting strikes are on average a few times more powerful than those on Earth, they are apparently less frequent. The first instance occurred in 2010 when the Cassini space probe detected flashes on the night-side of the planet, which happened to coincide with the detection of powerful electrostatic discharges. When the narrow Isthmus of Panama joined the continents about 3 million years ago, it also separated the Atlantic from the Pacific Ocean. Even if we take into consideration the energy generated during precipitation, the electric field is not powerful enough. Nevertheless, there is a big difference between the atmosphere and a spark chamber, and a handful of particles are just not enough to trigger a lightning.
Scientists have previously been able to detect runaway effects in low energy electric fields, not to mention the x-ray and gamma ray emissions, however it is still uncertain if the runaway effect can be held responsible for triggering lightnings.
Besides thunderstorm, lightning can also be observed during volcanic eruptions, surface nuclear explosions and forest fires.
Often people think that lightning comes from the clouds, on the contrary the path of lightning is from the ground to the cloud. The separation of positive and negative charges within cloud is the main reason for lightning to take place. The temperature of top layer of the clouds fell below freezing point and the water vapour turns into ice.
Since similar charges repel each-other and opposite charges attract each other, Lighter, negative charges generally gather near the base of the cloud, while heavier, positive charges build in the upper reaches of the cloud.
The ground's positive charge concentrates around anything that sticks up - trees, lightning conductors, even people! Plus you’ll meet colleagues across all science disciplines, all grade bands and teaching stages, from the newest teacher to the veteran administrator, who share a passion for science education. That it’s not well understood isn’t surprising, as this is often the case when going from scientific models to the real world. Our model of the atom includes positively charged nuclei surrounded by negatively charged electrons. Because opposite charges attract, there is now an attraction between the negatively charged balloon and your positively charged hair. Because electric forces are quite strong and far-reaching, objects in the universe tend to be electrically neutral (equal numbers of positive and negative charges).
The Earth is negatively charged, and there is a gradual move toward a more positive charge as you move up in the atmosphere. This means that there must be something that keeps “charging up” this system and maintaining the initial charge separation.
A thunderstorm consists of a number of convection cells, which are circulations of rising and sinking air.
Something called a “step leader,” which is nothing more than ionized air, begins to stretch from the cloud to the Earth. This is just like what happens when you get near a metal object after shuffling your feet on a carpet.
This is followed by more discharges that also follow along the path created by the step leader. Other concentrations of positive charge in the atmosphere can even cause horizontal lightning. This maintains that constant charge separation between the Earth and the atmosphere that I discussed earlier. Kids sometimes think that science and scientists already know all there is to know about the world, but that is far from the truth. No, look closely at any photograph of the phenomenon, and the lightning begins and ends in the plume itself. Rubbing your feet along the carpet covers you in negatively charged electrons, and if you do it vigorously, you’ll be carrying enough electrons that the charge difference between you and a surface without that same charge will be too great.
As the gargantuan cloud encounters the atmosphere, those particles tumble and bump together, creating even more charges. As with all things in the natural world, what was originally seen as a act by the Gods (or other supernatural causes) has since come to be recognized as a natural phenomena.
Although lightning is always accompanied by the sound of thunder, distant lightning may be seen but be too far away for the thunder to be heard.
The term "heat-lightning" is often applied here, due to the association between locally experienced warmth and the distant lightning flashes. In the case of CG strikes, the stepped leader is attracted to the positively charged ground. To a certain degree, the ratio between IC, CC and CG lightning may also vary by season in middle latitudes. In the tropics, where the freezing level is generally higher in the atmosphere, only 10% of lightning flashes are CG. When lighting strikes a tree, it vaporizes sap, which can result in the trunk exploding or a large branches snapping off and falling to the ground.
And though roughly 90% of people struck by lightning survive, humans or animals struck by lightning may suffer severe injury due to internal organ and nervous system damage.
If the clouds were electrically charged as he expected, then sparks would jump between the iron rod and the grounded wire. By the summer of 1752, Franklin is believed to have conducted the experiment himself during a large storm that descended on Philadelphia. In addition to showing that thunderstorms contain electricity, Franklin was able to infer that the lower part of the thunderstorm was generally negatively charged as well. Wilson also won the Nobel Prize for the invention of the Cloud Chamber, a particle detector used to discern the presence of ionized radiation. In addition, improved measurement and observational capabilities were made possible thanks to improvements in space-based technologies. In addition, the ash density and constant motion within the plume continually produces electrostatic ionization.

A few flashes have been detected in polar regions, making Jupiter the second known planet after Earth to exhibit polar lightning. In 2012, images taken by the Cassini probe in 2011 showed how the massive storm that wrapped the northern hemisphere was also generating powerful flashes of lightning.
Nonetheless, millions of lightning bolts stream through the atmosphere every day, thus there must exist an alternative explanation. Russian Alex Gurevich from the Lebedev Physical Institute suggests that energetic particles emitted from the Sun and supernova explosions all over the Milky Way may contribute to lightning by forming a conductive path through the atmosphere, to initiate the electric discharge. Spark chambers, for example, using very low voltages can be triggered to spark with relative ease as long as there are enough free electrons inside it. However, the widely accepted theory is that of cumulonimbus clouds getting electrically charged. It travels up to a speed of 60,000 meters per second and has the power to kill more people each year than a hurricane or a tornado.
This allows electric fields to form and grow between the cloud and the ground and within the cloud itself. The positive charge from the ground connects with the negative charge from the clouds and a spark of lightning strikes. Even so, we can paint a reasonable picture of what happens if we understand a few basics about static electricity. The effects of static electricity are usually a result of electrons moving from one place to another, leading to an arrangement of charges in which positive and negative charges are concentrated in certain areas.
Just as a balloon can pick up electrons from your hair, your body can pick up excess electrons when you rub your feet on a carpet.
The equal numbers result because any major buildup of charges (due to any number of interactions between objects) leads to large electric forces. Scientists have measured the rate of this discharge, and if this discharge were the only motion of charges in the atmosphere, the Earth and the atmosphere would neutralize each other in a very short time. That something is lightning, which acts like a battery keeping the Earth-atmosphere system charged up.
It progresses in steps of about 50 m (hence the name step leader) and brings excess negative charges from the cloud toward the Earth. When this step leader reaches the Earth, or often just before it does, a large electrical current emerges from the Earth and follows the path the step leader created.
The farther things are away from the Earth, the closer they are to that step leader descending from the cloud, so they are more likely to be points at which the major discharge happens. Both are made of metal, and electric currents tend to stay on the outside of metals, leaving you safe and sound inside your metal container.
Then, the particles are separated based on the aerodynamics of the particles inside the ash plume itself.
At the latitude of Norway (around 60A° North latitude), where the freezing elevation is lower, 50% of lightning is CG. Since the sound waves propagate not from a single source, but along the length of the lightning's path, the origin's varying distances can generate a rolling or rumbling effect.
This in turn results in frequent and powerful flashes as the plume tries to neutralize itself. Radio pulses recorded by the Venus Express spacecraft (in April 2006) were confirmed as originating from lightning on Venus.
Lets put it this way: scientists have a hard time understanding how a shower of particles moving randomly through the atmosphere can generate electrical flows in the form of a hot conductive channel of electrons only a few centimeters in diameter, thus the faith of lightning initiation remains uncertain for now. Florida in the US, has the maximum number of lightning strikes each year than any other part of the US. The zigzag pattern of lightning appearing to us is because of the uneven ionization of the air in all directions. With these concentrations, the microscopic forces between individual charges result in large-scale, observable forces between objects. There are about 100,000 lightning strikes per second on Earth—a sufficient number to maintain a charge separation between the atmosphere and the Earth.
As the water droplets and ice particles sink inside these convection cells, they cause an overall charge separation in the thunderclouds. The step leader itself consists of moving charges and constitutes a small electric current, but the return electric current from the Earth is much larger and thus the current we associate with the major lightning flash.
The fact that there are many such discharges from the Earth up the path created by the step leader accounts for the repeated flashing you see in a lightning stroke.
This intense heat causes a rapid expansion and then contraction of the air around the lightning. Of course, it would be a good thing not to be touching the outside of that car while you’re riding along. When the charge difference becomes untenable, lighting rips through the cloud to neutralize it. This natural phenomenon which occurs in the form of a luminous zigzag pattern in the sky is something that has interested people for generations.What Causes Lightning?There are several theories stating how lightning is formed, and these theories have generated scores of controversies as well. In other words, large concentrations of either positive or negative charges don’t last long because electric currents, resulting from electric forces, tend to equalize the distribution.
There are competing theories as to how this charge separation happens, but the result is well documented.
The rapid expansion and contraction creates sound waves, which are nothing more than air molecules moving back and forth. It actually attracts the lightning bolt, but then provides an easy conducting path to safely divert the discharge away from the house or building. I’d say the same for the airplane, but if you’re touching the outside of a plane during a lightning storm, you have more problems than I can solve! Lightning bolts have temperatures ranging from 30,000 to 50,000A° F, which is extremely hot, even hotter than the surface of the Sun. Because electric forces—the naturally occurring attraction between unlike charges or the repulsion between like charges—between the excess electrons on your finger and the concentrated positive charge on the metal object ionize the air. The clouds end up with an overall negative charge at the bottom, an overall positive charge at the top, and a concentration of positive charges towards the center. Once you know how a lightning rod works, you also know why it would be pretty stupid to stand out on a golf course with your metal golf club in the air during a thunderstorm.
However, the polarization mechanism in clouds is the theory which is widely accepted across the globe.Formation of Cumulonimbus Clouds (Thunder Clouds)After convection when the warm, evaporated water rises into the atmosphere, it is encountered by cold air, which causes the warm air to rise even more rapidly and form large, dense and tall cumulonimbus clouds (thunder clouds) at a height of 15000-25000 feet above sea level. Once the air, the Earth and the cloud have been neutralized by the lightning, it will not strike again. Ionization is the process of creating positive and negative particles that are able to conduct an electric current, or the motion of charges. The negative charge buildup at the bottom of the cloud is much more concentrated than the normal negative charge of the Earth, so the bottom of the cloud is more negative than the Earth. Now, because sound travels much slower than light, you hear the thunder after you see the lightning. Without an easier path to take, which the wires connected to a lightning rod provide, the electric current goes right through your body. Because electric forces get stronger the closer things are, the electric forces between the bottom of the cloud and the Earth are very strong—much stronger than the electric forces between the Earth and the positive charges in the upper part of the cloud.
Sound travels about one mile in five seconds, so if you count the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunderclap, you can figure out how far away the lightning is. Scientists believe that these collisions in the clouds create an electric charge: positive and negative. As the volcanic dust particles collide with one another, charge separation takes place by a process called aerodynamic sorting.
Further, the positive and negative charges separate from one another, wherein the negative charges move towards the bottom of the cloud and the positive charges dwell in the upper and middle regions of the cloud.The negative charges cause positive charges to develop in the area surrounding the cloud and on the ground below.
Separation of positively and negatively charged particles occurs in the volcanic cloud, which causes the cloud to be positively charged at one particular end and negatively charged at the other end.
The electric charges get stronger and make the cloud negatively charged and the surface of the Earth positively charged.
This charge separation goes on increasing until a point when it is beyond resistance and electricity begins to flow between the opposite charges. The electric charge caused between the Earth and the cloud serves as the perfect platform for the occurrence of lightning.Lightning FormationWhen the difference in electric charge is large enough, the huge charges inside the cloud ionize the air and make it a good conductor of electricity. Thus, lightning display occurs during an eruption.Lightning is not restricted to thunderstorms and can occur independently. Further, a giant spark is generated which causes electricity to flow through the air to another point of opposite charge. This flow of electricity between regions of opposite charges is called a leader stroke.The leader stroke can occur between two clouds, from the cloud to the ground or from one part of the cloud to another part of the same cloud. For better understanding, scientists have classified the different types of lightning based on their physical and visual characteristics.

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