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Amazing Photos Capture Lightning in Iceland Volcano's Ash Cloud

Grimsvotn eruption, Iceland
Particles rubbing together in the eruption plume of Grimsvotn trigger lightning. (Image credit: Jóhann Ingi Jónsson)

Taken as close as a half-mile (1 kilometer) from Iceland's erupting volcano, new images of Grimsvotn reveal an enormous churning ash cloud riddled with lightning.

The photographs were taken by Johann Ingi Jonsson, an amateur photographer from Reykjavik, which sits 124 miles (200 km) from Grimsvotn. Jonsson and a friend joined an adventure tour group to get up close to the volcano, which has been spewing ash since May 21.

According to the Iceland Review Online, the eruption is the largest Grimsvotn eruption in a century. [See Jonsson's photos of Grimsvotn's eruption]

The ash cloud rose as high as 12 miles (20 km) into the air, settling at an altitude of about 10 t0 15 miles (6 to 9 km) on May 22. Last year, another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, disrupted air travel over Europe. Grimsvotn may not cause such widespread trouble, as its ash is coarser and may not travel aloft as great a distance. However, flights in the United Kingdom and Ireland have already been cancelled due to the arriving ash cloud.

In southern Iceland, Jonsson said, ash is "raining down" on residents. Near the volcano, however, it was pure beauty.

"I think the pictures say it all," Jonsson wrote in an email to LiveScience. "It was amazing, and the raw power of the volcano with the smell of the ash and the roars from the thunder hitting again and again. Once in a lifetime experience."

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.