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Stunning shot of rare volcanic lightning

Photo: Sigurður Stefnisson

Photo: Sigurður Stefnisson

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Saturday, April 26, 2014, 12:48 PM -

Volcanic eruptions are already one of the most epic displays of Mother Nature's raw power, so it almost seems like overkill when those dense clouds of ash start spawning bolts of lightning.

Icelandic photographer Sigurður Stefnisson bagged this gem of a shot in 2010, while the country's Eyjafjallajökull volcano was in full-throated eruption.

Travellers in Spring 2010 may ruefully remember this volcano as the one that sent a plume of ash towering high into the atmosphere, disrupting flights as far away as continental Europe.

The volcano erupted on March 20 and April 14 that year. While neither eruption was especially powerful, the second one melted a large amount of ice on the surrounding glacier, which interacted with lava to form "gritty glass particles", which were then carried aloft.

As for the lightning, it's part of a little-studied phenomenon  similar to a "dirty thunderstorm," where an electrical charge is generated from particles of dust and ash rather than from atmospheric water vapour as in regular thunderstorms.

As for the photographer, Stefnisson's work has been featured in numerous publications, and last week this shot was selected as NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

He's been shooting for two and a half decades, and is an experienced off-road and snowmobile guide, so his website is jam-packed with similarly epic shots. You can browse his work at www.snefnisson.com.

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