"Take care of the land…someday you’ll be part of it"
- sign on our hike in Chantery Flats
Happy Earth Day! The stunning photos above show the Sacred Headwaters, a pristine area of protected land in a remote corner of northern British Columbia. The area is about the size of the entire state of Oregon, and only one tiny road winds through it. (For context, on the US mainland, the farthest you can get from a maintained road is about 20 miles. Oregon is 98,466 square miles.)
though usually hidden to the human eye, naturally occurring marine bio-fluorescence can be seen under certain wavelengths of light (like ultraviolet), which causes the cells of the organisms seen here to absorb the light — and some of the photon’s energy — and then emit back a now less energetic light that consequently has a longer wavelength and thus a different colour.
as seen in these images, volcanic storms can rival the intensity of massive supercell thunderstorms common to the american midwest. but the source of the charge responsible for this phenomenon remains hotly debated.
in the kind of storm clouds that generate conventional lightning, ice particles and soft hail collide, building up positive and negative charges, respectively. they separate into layers, and the charge builds up until the electric field is high enough to trigger lightning.
but the specific mechanism by which particles of differing charge are separated in the ash cloud is still unknown. lightning has been observed between the eruption plume and the volcano right at the start of an eruption, suggesting that there are processes that occur inside the volcano to lead to charge separation.
nobody knows exactly what goes on when individual particles in the eruption plume interact, but what is mostly agreed upon is that the process starts when particles separate, either after a collision or when a larger particle breaks in two. then some difference in the aerodynamics of these particles causes the positively charged particles to be systematically separated from the negatively charged particles.
volcanic lightning could also yield clues about the earth’s geological past, and could answer questions about the beginning of life on our planet. volcanic lightning could have been the essential spark that converted water, hydrogen, ammonia, and methane molecules present on a primeval earth into amino acids, the building blocks of life.
photos taken during the april 2010 volcanic eruptions in eyjafjallajokull, iceland by skarphedinn thrainsson, gunnar gestur geirmundsson, marco fulle, lucas jackson, sigurdur hrafn stefnisson and ragnar th sigurdsson. text from here and here.