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Watch a Japanese Volcano Put on a Spectacular Show

Lightning and lava? No biggie

smithsonian.com

Volcanoes can be as mesmerizing as they are scary—after all, it’s not every day you get a view of the Earth’s molten, chaotic core. But last week, a volcanic eruption in Japan became even more spectacular when a lightning storm took place in front of all that lava. 

Reuters reports that Mount Sakurajima erupted on Friday, emitting glowing nighttime lava flows studded with bursts of lightning. The eruption was the first since September and prompted officials to close off the area and upgrade the volcano’s warning status to a level three: “do not approach the volcano.” 

Sakurajima is located in Kyushu and is responsible for one of Japan’s most powerful eruptions ever—a 1914 blast so intense, its lava flow turned an island into a peninsula. The volcano is one of Japan’s most active, erupting hundreds of times each year on average. 

The eruption comes less than a month after the area’s annual disaster drill. Japan Times reports that the drill, the 46th of its kind, involved warnings in four languages and a faux evacuation by ferry. The city across the bay from the volcano, Kagoshima, has learned to live with its fiery neighbor—ash forecasts are even part of its local weather report. 

A volcano eruption isn’t exactly newsworthy in Japan: After all, the country has 110 active volcanoes. Reuters writes that the blast did not affect the Sendai nuclear plant, which is about 31 miles away. Nor did it raise many eyebrows among scientists: A volcanologist from Kyoto University tells the Associated Press that “the eruption, while dramatic, was average compared to Sakurajima’s past eruptions.” Average? Perhaps. Stunning? Definitely.

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