Shinmoedake erupts: lava, ash and lightning over Japan

Lightning dances in Shinmoedake's volcanic plume, the eruption having already led Japanese authorities to call on those living nearby to evacuate. Seen from Kirishima city, the light shows last only for a few moments, but the ash and rocks fall relentlessly between the prefectures of Miyazaki and Kagoshima. One of Kirishima's many calderas, Shinmoedake is 4,662 feet tall. Photo: Minami-Nippon Shimbun

Shinmoedake's dome of lava rose after 52 years of dormancy, sending smoke plumes more than 6,500 feet into the sky and disrupting air traffic. More than 1,000 people living in southern Japan have been urged to evacuate, according to local officials, but no injuries have been reported. Photo: Reuters/Kyodo

An aerial view shows Shinmoedake peak erupting between Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures last week. The evacuation zone extends 1.2 miles from the volcano; farmers nearby report that their crops have been coated in ash. Photo: Reuters/Kyodo

Shinmoedake peak erupts, as seen from Takaharu Town Office. The evacuation advisory there was issued at 11:50 p.m. Sunday, according to the Associated Press, which added that the lava dome continued to swell. According to Reuters, Shinmoedake has not been this active in nearly 300 years. Photo: Takaharu Town Office

People sweep volcanic ashes in Miyakonojo, in Miyazaki prefecture, on January 28, 2011. Since then, hundreds have left the area, according to Reuters. Japan's Meteorological Agency said that the volcano began releasing smoke last Wednesday, and that the lava dome was five times larger today than it was Friday. Photo: Reuters/Kyodo

Access to the mountain itself has been restricted, according to AFP. Train services have also been suspended until the tracks are cleared. Photo: Reuters/Kyodo

Crops are covered with volcanic ashes from erupting Shinmoedake peak. Photo: Reuters/Kyodo


    1. Look closely at the first pic of lighting – see if you see what I did – looks like a dragon head coming out of the lava – way cool

  1. This year’s crop may be lost. But next year’s would be great. Isn’t volcanic ash a good fertilizer?

  2. Wow – that first photo looks apocalyptic. Checked on a map where this is happening and realized that I’ve actually been hiking along the flanks of this volcano several years ago… it was all sulphur-steamy and hissy back then and seems to have gone downhill from there.

  3. Look out for those giant crystal towers rising out of the earth in all this — SupēsuGojira is on his way!!

  4. Anyone else see the head of Godzilla in the first picture? He’s in the center, roaring towards the right.

  5. Oh yeah, I remember that one. Dr. Evil was gonna use it for his super-fortress, luckily I managed to talk him out of it.

      1. …and that’s my cue to post today’s link to a John Barry song, this time sung by Nancy Sinatra:

        John Barry, RIP.

  6. I live in Miyakonojo. It’s a bit over thirty kilometers away from the eruption.

    The city is on a wide plain surrounded by mountains, so it’s constantly windy here. And this time of the year, it tends to blow from the direction of the Kirishima peaks. The ash mostly blows around when stirred up by passing cars. The ash is really fine and gets into everything. The masks they sell here are meant to keep you from sneezing on people, not keep nasty things out, so they’re useless.

    The sun is shining right now because the ash plume is being blown in a different direction. However, there is the occasional window-shaking boom coming from the volcano which has been keeping me on my toes.

    Aside from cleaning up the ash, life is pretty much as it always has been.

    Obviously, I’m hoping it stays that way. But I do plan to strike an amusing pose just in case I get entombed a la Pompeii.

  7. I had always assumed that Japanese anime was visually insane because of Japan’s historical penchant for hallucinogens, but it’s actually because their volcanoes shoot lightning!


  8. I just realised that this volcano is very close to another I have seen IRL in Kagoshima. As we cruised past it on a boat I asked a nice old Japanese man who was super-keen to practice his English “Does it always smoke like that?”. I couldn’t believe that people can so easily live next a fiery hole in the earth that could kill them at any moment. It sure made for a nice sunset, though.

  9. It’s a shame that there aren’t to ninja battling at the rim of that volcano. That would have been a cool shot.

  10. William George: Cool story bro! (Seriously, thank you.)

    headfirstonly: Thanks, I was wondering which Bond movie it was.

  11. Whatsever. Mades for good album cover.

    Also, first photo looks like something out of the climactic battle from Nick’s ‘Avatar: the Last Airbender’ series.

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