How the Taal Volcano in Philippines Produces Lightning Resulting in Breathtaking Displays

A volcano explosion in the Philippines is causing a spectacular sky display, forcing tens of thousands of people to escape.


A volcano explosion in the Philippines is causing a spectacular sky display, forcing tens of thousands of people to escape.

The Taal Volcano, some 37 miles south of Manila, began erupting on Sunday, forcing the closure of the country’s principal airport until the ashfall decreased by Monday.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued a warning, stating that 144 volcanic earthquakes had been detected since the eruption began, 44 of which were intense enough to be felt in adjacent areas.


Image Source: Brandenberg Milla

According to the institute’s warning, “such severe seismic activity likely suggests continued magma intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to more eruptive activity.”

According to the volcanology institute, the erupting volcano was still releasing steam-filled plumes over a mile tall, resulting in heavy ashfall. Photos and videos captured at the scene show a massive column of smoke and ash rising into the sky.

Image Source: Gerrard Carreon

An magnificent display of uncommon volcanic lightning was also visible when night fell about 6 p.m. on Sunday. So, what exactly is volcanic lighting?

When sparks fly during a volcanic eruption, it is entirely due to physics above rather than tectonic action below.

Image Source: Bogie Calupitan

Lightning is a massive burst of electricity in the sky between clouds, air, or the ground. It is one of the oldest recorded natural phenomena on the planet. Lightning can occur between opposed charges within a thunderstorm cloud or between opposite charges in the cloud and on the ground, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.

A thick cloud of volcanic ash that provides a large charge separation between two masses is required for lightning to occur during a volcanic eruption.

“If the charge separation develops large enough, it is then capable of overpowering the air resistance, creating a channel of ionised air, and conducting electricity in the form of lightning,” geologists at Oregon State University explain. “The ash that will be emitted starts out as electrostatically neutral rock or rock pieces.”

Image Source: Aaron Favila

The primary source of particle charging is heat and movement within a volcano, although ash particles normally acquire a charge through friction from the rapid motions of being blasted out during a volcanic eruption.

“Imagine sliding your socks on the carpet or pressing a balloon swiftly across your head. “The same sort of charge is collecting within the ash cloud, but on a far greater scale,” Oregon State University researchers say.

According to National Geographic, volcanoes that lack a dense volcanic plume, such as those in Hawaii that contain more lava than ash, seldom produce volcanic lightning.

Image Source: Aaron Favila