Photos: Italy’s Mount Etna erupted in a gorgeous storm of fire, ash, and volcanic lightning by Sarah Todd

Volcanic lightning and billows of fire and ash lit up the sky over the east coast of Sicily on Thursday

(Dec. 3) as Italy’s Mount Etna erupted for the first time in two years.

Etna, the tallest volcano in Europe, is also among the world’s most active. This particular eruption lasted less than an hour, and no injuries were reported. Towns and villages near the base of Italy’s busy volcano have used ditches, concrete dams, and even explosives to redirect lava away from populated areas.

The already dramatic spectacle of Etna spewing fountains of lava was heightened by a dirty thunderstorm. Volcanologists theorize this natural phenomenon is caused when ash particles bump into each other in the cloud above the volcano, creating electrical charges that set off crackles of lightning.

Streaks of lightning above Mount Etna.

Streaks of lightning above Mount Etna.

Italy Etna Eruption

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