Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lightning Strikes Over Volcano For 'Once-In-A-Lifetime' Photo

by Landess Kearns:

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is known for its awe-inspiring vistas, but for photographer Jon Mikan, one particular day in the park trumps all the others.

Mikan visited the park on Oct. 16, during one of the worst lightning storms he has witnessed in his 14 years of living in the Big Island's Volcano Village.

"I was scared to get out of my car," he told The Huffington Post. "But I knew I would regret it if I didn't give it a shot."

Thanks to his determination, Mikan captured what he calls a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" as lightning came crashing down over Halemaumau Crater.

The cloud seen above the crater is a plume of volcanic ash produced by the volatile lake of lava within.

Lightning can be produced by volcanic activity, according to United States Geological Survey scientists, in a phenomenon known as dirty thunderstorms or volcanic lightning.

But that's not what this particular photograph captures, said Janet Babb, a USGS geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. 

This lightning strike is "strictly a weather phenomenon -- it has nothing to do with the ash being emitted by Kilauea," she said, emphasizing that the lightning is much farther from the ash than it appears in the photo.

The ash and the lightning are unrelated occurrences, but the addition of the fiery glow of the lava makes for quite an image.

Halemaumau Crater sits at the summit of Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes. Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitor the daily activity of Kilauea and also managed to get a photo of the lightning, but Mikan's epic snaps take the cake.

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