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Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
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Amazing Natural Phenomena

7 of the planet's most incredible spectacles

Text by Melissa Pandika

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Photo by Caters News Agency
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Far more than a postcard-perfect backdrop, nature is an unpredictable force that both enthralls and terrifies. Just when we take nature for granted, eerie northern lights, devastating volcanic lightning, and other phenomena awaken our sense of wonder and remind us of how little we understand about our world.

Volcanic lightning

Lightning strikes Japan's Sakurajima volcano as it spews red-hot lava, creating a terrifyingly beautiful display. No one knows exactly how volcanic lightning occurs, but scientists hypothesize that charge separation is responsible. As fiery magma, ash, and rock clash with cooler air, oppositely charged particles separate from each other. A lightning bolt forms to balance the charge distribution. The biggest volcanic storms may pack as much power as the massive, tornado-spawning supercell thunderstorms.


 


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