Mother nature is unrelenting, unforgiving, and utterly beautiful. Case in point, she can turn a serene view like this:
Into a hellish sight like this:
What you’re seeing is a time-lapse video of southern Chile’s Calbuco volcano, which erupted on Wednesday, April 22 for the first time in 42 years.
The explosive event was unexpected, giving only minutes of warning before eruption, as Wired’s Erik Klemetti explains in his detailed account of the event.
About 15 minutes before the eruption, the movement of magma through the volcano’s column released a measurable amount of energy in the form of a volcanic tremor, which are detected by a seismograph, the same instrument used to measure earthquake intensity. These tremors were the only warning nearby towns had before the volcano erupted.
A Latin America-based airline, LATAM, has since canceled some of its flights because of the considerable amount of blinding ash in the air. By Wednesday evening, over 4,000 residents in nearby towns had evacuated the area. You can see the volcanic ash and dust consuming the sky and blocking out the sun in the incredible GIF below:
If a volcanic explosion is large enough, it will generate powerful lightning bolts like the ones shown below in this time-lapse video of the Calbuco eruption taken Wednesday evening, hours after the initial eruption event. What causes these spectacular lightning storms and why some volcanic eruptions generate them and others do not is still an active field of research and not well understood.
No deaths linked with the explosion have been reported, so far. Right now, the most dangerous threat is that the mile-high column collapses under its own weight, causing a pyroclastic flow, which is a a wall of fast-moving, super-heated gas and rock that rolls down the face of the volcano and would destroy anything in its path.
Such an event could devastate the infrastructure of nearby towns.
Below is an image of a pyroclastic flow from an 1984 eruption by the Mayon Volcano located in the Phillipines. The dangerous part is the dark grey clouds racing downhill.
Let’s hope something like this doesn’t happen next in Chile.
Here’s the full time-lapse videos:
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