Incredible: Lightning Storm Strikes Over Active Volcano in Japan

Residents of the Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Japan were privy to the amazing sight of lightning striking an ash cloud from an active volcano, with a powerful bolt cascading through thick, darkened fumes.

A photographer with Reuters was able to capture the once-in-a-lifetime image on camera, seen above. More photography revealed the scale of the eruption. Residents of surrounding villages reportedly were drawn from their homes to watch, even as the dangerous phenomenon occurred within miles.

Sakurajima is the most active volcano in Japan, and accounts describe the natural formation as erupting “constantly” since 1955. Academics have expressed concern that the site could explode in a “major” eruption in the near future, potentially endangering citizens who live on the southern tip of Japan’s Kyushu island.

Lightning striking in the proximity of an active volcano is not unprecedented, with some scientists speculating that the release of gases from the natural formation attracts lightning. It’s thought that the billowing and dense release of gases creates statis energy that draws lightning. Photographers have captured images of lightning striking the active volcano of Volcan de Fuego in Mexico before.

Volcanoes are notoriously difficult for scientists to study, with attempts to document volcanic eruptions at the scene having ended in death previously. A volcanologist who observed the infamous and devastating eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington in 1980 was killed by the blast-despite witnessing it from an observation post more than six miles away from the summit’s explosion.

Volcanoes are plentiful in Japan, which is situated on the other side of the ‘Pacific Rim’ which features American volcanoes. There are no reports of injuries occurring as a result of the Sakurajima eruption.