Lightning Storm Generated by Chilean Volcano (Images)

Article written: 7 May , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

It could be the scene from a movie: huge plumes of ash and gas rising during a ferocious volcanic eruption, sparking off a dazzling lightning storm; lightning bolts thundering to life inside and out of the hot cloud. However, this is the reality down on the ground for the people living near the Chaiten Volcano, southern Chile, who have been evacuated since the volcano erupted on Friday. Activity continues to increase, producing these terrifying, yet mesmerizing scenes…

Bolts of lightning erupt as the plume rises (Daily Mail/UPI/Carlos Gutierrez)

Lightning can happen as a result of a volcanic eruption. As the hot ash rises through the cooler atmosphere, transfer of charge occurs. This excess of electrons within the cloud makes it act like a capacitor, and should the conditions be correct, huge electrical discharges may be observed as bolts of lightning during volcanic eruptions. It seems that the Chaiten volcano’s recent activity has created the perfect conditions for such a show, allowing photographers in the region to capture some stunning images.

The eruption as viewed from orbit, probably from the ISS (Daily Mail)

I actually saw the picture shown at the top of this article in a double page spread in today’s edition of the UK’s Daily Mail. At first I couldn’t work out what I was seeing but on reading the caption I soon realized it was connected with the recent eruption in Chile. Fortunately the Daily Mail also posted the article on their website, giving me the opportunity to share these incredible images on the Universe Today.

The eruption looms (AP)

This region of South America has some very active plate tectonics and has been dubbed “Andean Arc” region of Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Columbia containing around 200 to 300 volcanoes. Volcanologists are highly concerned as many of these volcanoes are located in densely populated areas, so they are studying the Chaiten eruption very carefully. The small town of Chaiten is being threatened by this particular eruption, but fortunately the surrounding area is otherwise unpopulated.

Sources:, Daily Mail

37 Responses

  1. Member

    You’re right!! It’s a BIG ANGRY ELEPHANT! I soooo wish I’d seen that before I ran the article. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ


    Thanks Kendall ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Member

    hehe, I can see that too! But I still can’t get over the elephant ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Don Alexander says





    (Sorry, my normally very rational brain has conked out on this…)

    Someone, PLEASE, make a 1920 x 1200 version of this image as a screen background!!!!!!!

  4. serenity says

    Here’s a bigger version! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Lawrence McCurrach says

    indeed, fantastic photo!

  6. Ryan says

    Just unbelievable.

    @serenity: THANK YOU!

  7. john says

    Holy shit !!!!
    Thanks for the jpg its my new wallpaper !

  8. Jorge says

    Holy baloney! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    What a sight!

    What are those fainter blue-tainted rays seen in the first two images, BTW? Afterglows?

  9. owen says

    an amazing picture

  10. Kendall says

    Does anybody other than me see the large, angry elephant? Look for the trunk and the ears. Then you’ll start seeing the front leg and the rest. Maybe I should call it Ganesha, so I can end up on badastronomy.dom, under pareidolia. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. I actually think it looks like a big buffalo!

    What a scary storm, though…

  12. Astrofiend says

    Heh! Elephant from hell!

    Amazing photo – this thing looks like it could go up sometime soon. Then again, who knows with volcanos…

  13. vag says

    there are GREEN bolts if you notice .
    They look more like ionised Oxygen just after the bolt

  14. Daniel says

    Any chance of a better multi size quility one ?


  15. Mike B says

    The green bolts are actually refreactions from the lens and the brightness of the main bolts.

    Amazing photos.


  16. LLDIAZ says

    Its scary to see what the Earth is really capable of.

  17. Lil Judd says

    Amazing! The beauty of this planet!!!!

    The power & wonder this planet has to offer – – I’m in awe of Nature.

  18. Mauro says

    Itร‚ยดs really amazing..but is not a simple storm…it is due to the Volcano erupt, go and search for the following news – Chaiten Volcano Chile south America –,,30200-1314939,00.html

    Looks great..but there is a lot of people suffering because they have to leave their houses..

    Mauro – From Chile.

  19. Paul says

    I think it looks more like the minatour released from its labyrinth.

  20. jim says

    That is one big dirty cloud.

  21. alphonso richardson says

    Absolutely stunning pictures
    (Though probably not so great for anyone living near there………)

  22. sanchu fish says

    AWESOME PHOTO, superb to be alive in a time when this can be shared with the world

  23. hiro says

    Thanks. I think it looks like a huge spaceship enters the Earth’s atmosphere in some sf movie.

  24. Angolmois says

    I see a deliverate attempt to deflect solar radiation.

  25. Sheila says

    I saw this picture on CNN the other day and just HAD to share this with my family. I do see the big angry elephant! We also see two other things, but the elephant is the best one. The picture also loooks like a big angry gorilla in profile on feet and knuckles, facing left. The second thing that we see is a skull looking at a tornado (quite evil looking if I do say so myself)- the trunk in the picture would be the tornado- the right side of the picture would be where the skull is, in left profile… the skull’s forehead leads to a brow ridge, then lit eyes under the ridge. It then proceeds to the concavity where the nose would be, then there is a sllight forward jut of the top jaw. This is where the teeth begin, and these are lit too. then the skull ends with an amazingly accurate jawbone. Just thought I’d share that with y’all. Thanks elephant seer!

  26. Richard Lalancette says

    Amazing show from Mother Nature.
    Great photos too!


  27. JohnnyZ says

    Nice hostbuster reset for the win ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Awesome pic.

  28. Peter Beckman says

    Anybody have a link to purchase this picture for framing?


  29. aleju says

    the picture was is propierty of Reuters, if you go to and search for “chaiten” you will find this picture with a link to buy it

  30. aLeKi says

    That is one beautiful picture.

  31. Juan Ciga says

    Ian, please correct your article there is no country in South Amercia named Columbia, there is Colombia though, I am sure you ment that

  32. michelle says

    awsome it does look like an angry elephant….huh i wonder what the lightning bolts r doing in 1 place…did u c that????

  33. octavio says

    hiho guys!
    im from Esquel, Argentina (its a small city located like 100km from Chaiten Volcano)
    click next link to see the entire gallery of the lightning storm over the volcano:

    PD: can you see the faces formed in the ash clouds?
    its scary lol xD


  34. mish says

    to mail

  35. Maud says

    This is one of the most AWESOME photos I have ever seen in my entire life. WOW!

  36. Delgado says

    Great Pix… Thats life in LatinAmerica just AWESOME!!!


  37. How to Get Six Pack Fast says

    I noticed that this is not the first time at all that you write about this topic. Why have you chosen it again?

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