Mysterious Night Flashes Near Mt. Agung Volcano Observed from Satellite

November 27th, 2017 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Today I was watching the 10-minute imagery from the Japanese Himawari geostationary weather satellite for the next eruption of Mt. Agung in Bali, Indonesia, and in the last hour or so there have been some distinct flashes in the nighttime imagery, which you can access here. These only show up in the nighttime imagery.

UPDATE: here’s an animated GIF of the flashes (click on the image to animate):

Nighttime flashes in Japanese weather satellite imagery around Mt. Agung as a new eruption began on 27 November 2017. The flashes occur at 19:50, 20:10, and 20:30 UTC. The city lights have been added separately from previous observations from a different satellite, to assist in nighttime geolocation; the village lights of Besakih, on the southwest slope of Mt. Agung, can be seen within the dashed circle.

Thinking this was just sensor noise, I examined other areas for similar flashes, and saw none. But after reviewing nighttime imagery over the last week, I saw similar behavior during the early stages of the eruptions on Nov. 25 & 26. The flashes appear first, and then the ash cloud appears. Since the eruption plume does not show up in nighttime imagery until it has reached a sufficient altitude to be cold enough to show up in infrared sensors, it seems the lightning is more prevalent early in the eruption (assuming that’s what this is). [See UPDATE below…probably not lightning].

So, there might be a new eruption of Agung in progress. Last I checked the news, however, I saw nothing. [UPDATE: After my original post, Foxnews started streaming video of a new eruption in progress as the sun was rising.]

UPDATE: It appears that the flashes are not lightning, but are either (1) hotspots in the 3.9 micron portion of this product, a channel which is also used to detect wildfires, or (2) some portion of the eruption cloud that has low emissivity at 3.9 microns. Evidence for the latter possibility is that if you look at the early stages of a different volcano eruption in GOES-12 imagery documented here, there is a hotspot (in this case, color-coded as dark) in the 3.9 micron imagery, but then two bright flashes appear as the eruption begins.

[This post has been edited from the original as I have discovered the flashes are likely not lightning, but some other phenomenon.]

UPDATE (10:00 a.m. CST Nov. 28, 2017): A new eruption might have begun, here’s a new flash at 14:30 UTC:

New flash in Himawari satellite imagery at 14:30 UTC 28 Nov. 2017, suggesting a new eruption is starting.


94 Responses to “Mysterious Night Flashes Near Mt. Agung Volcano Observed from Satellite”

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  1. michael hart says:

    I understand your normal work is somewhere in the IR, but it’s not clear to me which parts of the EM spectrum are being detected in these diagrams.

  2. JohnD says:

    Maybe sonoluminesence

  3. Clay Marley says:

    Agung has had several significant eruptions over the last few days. Looks like it is finally coming to life again. Looks like you caught one.

  4. jimc says:

    The 2017-11-27 21:10 picture seems to have similar white flashes at different locations (center and a little below).

  5. I thought satellites detected lightning in hurricanes lately. One thing I heard newly this year is that there is an uptick of lightning in an intense hurricane at an early stage of an eyewall replacement cycle. I speculate that the upticked lightning is where the replacement eyewall is beginning to form.

  6. Gary says:

    Polar orbiters that collect visible imagery at night (DMSP, NPP) do detect lightning at night. Unfortunately the line-scanning nature of the satellite produces bright “dashes’ rather than distinct lightning signatures that we see on GOES-16. Also, the timeliness and timing of these polar satellites make detailed monitoring of volcanic lightning nearly impossible. The fact that they show up on the new higher-resolution geo satellites is new and probably more important than we realize!

  7. Jos says:

    There have been suggestions in literature that pending eruptions are associated with (detectable) effects on the atmosphere, for example via pressure/sound waves but also modifications to electromagnetic fields.

    Highly controversial stuff and often annecdotal. It would have been nice to have a lightening imager like GLI on GOESR. But in a few years time lightening imagers will be standard equipment. So who knows …

  8. Mike Alger says:

    I haven’t seen that either in the past Roy, but it might make some sense in that in the early stages of a plume generation the lightning from a volcanic eruption can form on the side of the plume, and therefor might not get obscured by the cloud the way a “standard” lightning strike tends to get swallowed up by the cumulonimbus.

  9. gbaikie says:

    Speaking flashes:

    Two Stars Slammed Into Each Other And Solved Half Of Astronomys Problems. What Comes Next?

    So its hard to overstate the enormous leap forward that astronomy took on Aug. 17, 2017. On that day, astronomers bore witness to the titanic collision of two neutron stars, the densest things in the universe besides black holes. In the collisions wake, astronomers answered multiple major questions that have dominated their field for a generation.
    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/two-stars-slammed-into-each-other-and-solved-half-of-astronomys-problems-what-comes-next/amp/

  10. Check Rio Helmi’s image of the volcano taken from Kubu in Bali, about 1 hour 20 minutes after this flash was recorded. There is definitely an eruption in progress.

    There only has to be a difference in the electrical potential of the gases being emitted and the surrounding atmosphere for lighting to be possible.

    Lightning is a common event when strato-volcanos like this one erupt.

    There have been reports of lightning associated with the present stage of Mt Agung’s eruption.

    It seems most likely that this was lightning.

    https://www.facebook.com/riohelmi.photography/photos/a.691375664214537.1073741831.119824161369693/1741414515877308/?type=3&theater

  11. Massimo PORZIO says:

    Hi Dr. Spencer.
    “I realize that volcanic eruptions can produce lighting; what I have never seen before is geostationary satellite evidence of such lightning. In fact, I havent even heard of thunderstorm lightning being picked up by regular weather satellites, although I could be mistaken.”
    Just a conjecture, it could be because usually lightning discharges happens in clean spaces where there is no much matters to heat up except the gasses which expands and dissipates the IR emissions on a greater volume. While the volcano lightning, locally heats the dusts produced by itself.

    Have a great day.

    Massimo

    • Massimo PORZIO says:

      Maybe I was not clear on what I was arguing:
      “While the volcano lightning, locally heats the dusts produced by itself.”
      I meant that the dust absorbs some of the lightning Vis/UV EM emissions and convert them emitting into IR EM emissions in the 4-20um thermal band.

  12. Roy Spencer says:

    See my update in the original post… I now believe that the flashes are warm cloud water, which has a low emissivity, within the ash cloud. This is how they diagnose low clouds and fog at night in the GOES imagery. I believe the effect is intensified as the temperature of the cloud rises, that is, the low emissivity of the warm water droplets has a bigger (cooling) effect than the warm temperature, and it causes a cold signature. I’ve verified it only shows up in the 3.9 micron (near-infrared) channel, and not the 10 micron (infrared) channel.

    • Curious George says:

      What is the time interval between consecutive frames?

    • Tom O says:

      As I was watching the white flashes appear, I couldn’t help but notice that distant clouds flared brighter, as if being lit by a light source. It would have to be something that would illuminate those clouds sufficiently to have them flare, too, I would think.

    • Hans K Johnsen says:

      Roy:
      I think the flash is due to leaking hydrogen combusting instantly as it meets the air. This produces the extra hot water you mention. Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOTgeeTB_kA

    • Massimo PORZIO says:

      Hi Dr. Spencer,
      yes, my hypothesis was wrong, indeed if you see the flashes at 3.9um and not at 10um it couldn’t be the BB like radiation, which I was expecting by the heated ash.

      Have a great day.

      Massimo

    • I suggest the flashes are methane ignitions. A Methane air mixture has a bottom and top concentration level before ignition can take place and then if in the limits it requires an ignition temperature. The lower limit is 5% and the upper limit is 15% gas in the mixture. The ignition temperature is 650C. So if methane is being emitted at a regular rate it could take time to reach a necessary concentration and temperature. It would then ignite as in an explosion with a flash exhausting all the methane and air until a new ignitable mixture can form again. The burnt methane of course forms CO2 and water vapor.

  13. HAARP being used to start the eruption. TPTB believes it can combat global warming. What do you believe?

    • Tony Maldonado says:

      Agreed HAARP. May also include CERN being fired up again.

      • Lee says:

        Not Haarp, but somewhat. But it probably is reflection off ice from water droplets, something like that.

    • Steve Kasian says:

      Sorry to disappoint ya, Sri, but HAARP is otherwise occupied this week; It’s being used to help fix my 1993 Ford Explorer. Better luck next time!

    • barry says:

      HAARP being used to start the eruption. TPTB believes it can combat global warming. What do you believe?

      I believe science fiction and conspiracy theories will be with us for a very long time.

  14. K. Hunter says:

    It seems likely that the only thing new about these phenomena is that we are able to observe them. Perhaps, if we can learn to detect earlier signs, we will one day learn to predict eruptions.

  15. MoreFreedom says:

    It would be interesting if they could do a spectral analysis of the light.

  16. Charlie O Jones says:

    Oh this is not good. It will make Tom Cruise and John Travolta go nuts, could possibly drive them over to play for the other team.

    Xenu is coming, Xenu is coming!!!

    • Steve Kasian says:

      Xenu?? What are you on about? It’s Nibiru, silly! The Nibmeister is getting near; It will be nibbling on your noggin before you know it!

  17. CCornelius says:

    Simultaneous flash at the southern opening of the strait between Bali and Tenggara.

  18. Hoozo Takamoto says:

    People farting?

  19. Matt E says:

    I think that’s all artifact. In the animated gif there are concurrent ‘flashes’ off to the right (like a reflection?). That it was lightning is a non-starter IMO. Natural things don’t happen with that exactness like 3 flashes of nearly identical magnitude at identical times followed by 2 flashes in 2 identical spots at identical times… followed by an exact repeat of the second 2 again…) then the pic below has another flash that is in the EXACT spot of one of the original 3 with an apparently exact magnitude. This is nothing natural. Some artifact. What kind of artifact might be interesting, or not.

  20. Kurt Leonard says:

    I thought it was two black holes that supposedly collided. Our press does not adequately research these studies, to ask some critical questions. E.G. Why have you put so much faith in the existence of multiple black holes, when Einstein postulates the idea of a Black Hole as a single entity, in an empty universe? Thats not our universe, and no black hole has ever been observed, only inferred. Its a sleight of hand, because if you believe in a universe that has more than one black hole, it runs completely counter to Einsteins theory about them. Nature is effecient and thrifty. Just because the universe is vast, doesnt mean we can complicate things beyond understanding. Its arrogant for humans to speculate about 8 billion year oldgravitational waves, cause by the a collision of black holes, which voids it.

    Also, in lab experiments we have not been able to put neutrons in a stable setting, where the particles tendancy is to separate and not attract, when massive amounts of heat and pressure are applied. We are to believe that in cold dark space, that a weak force like gravity overcomes the repellent force of neutrons trying to scatter. And then we are to believe that these bodies are spinning 500 RPM, and staying together. This is not logical, and like I stated, who is asking the tough questions when physicists, etc. try to plug holes in scientific theories with the unexplainable.

    • Consider the density of neutron stars. Gravity at their surfaces is not weak at all. A typical neutron star has a little more mass than the sun does but has a diameter of only about 20 km.

    • David Appell says:

      Einstein was barely the beginning of research into black holes; enormous amount of work was done after him by Oppenheimer, Wheeler, Hawking, Thorne & group, and many more.

  21. joe bolze says:

    Lightning hypothesis:

    After thinking about lightning, and sparks in general, I looked for an explanation more believable than just friction. I accumulated similar electrostatic events and empirically sought something that might explain a common operative for a somewhat related outcome.

    Lightning bolts are nature’s way of balancing the charge distribution. Volcanos lightning, scuffing rugs (static), steam cleaning container ships and tanks (sparks), locomotive sparks about the steam piston (Old Sparky), platinum (catalyst), Horatio engine, adhesive tape, frozen lake flash, and earthquakes. Storm clouds polarity can be positive or negative depending whether hail is forming or melting. Water vapor condenses into liquid water and then ice. Cavitation, electrolysis on propellers (change of state in the water to vapor) extra electrons erode the propeller. Adhesive tape flashes when pulled in the dark.

    The eureka moment:
    In the above examples, the common element is a change of state. — It appears that the molecules freely move about in the gaseous state until the gas liquefies. Furthermore, the molecules move much less in the solid state. So, why is this so?– Covalent bonding? Perhaps, there is a ‘glue’ not measured? If electrons, and there are more than enough, were the ‘glue’ this puzzle piece could complete the picture. Often the solution is not in the box. Even the rug microscopically melts on the trips of the fibers except when wet. When earthquakes occur, the animals take notice, not because of the sound (it’s often farther than the speed of sound from them) but they feel the electrostatic field from the fracturing and movement of the earths friction against itself (melting). There is often an aurora in the atmosphere (New Zeland). For matter to change state, electrons are added resulting in vapor changing to liquid and the cloud becomes positively charged inducing lightning (electrons) from the earth traveling up to satisfy the polarity imbalance. When this change of state is gradually, the charge generated dissipates. Additionally, when more electrons are added, the liquid becomes solid. All this occurs for each change at the correct pressure and temperature. The removal of electrons reverses the state of molecules to the previous state. Platinum enhances this transformation in a chemical process because of its superior conductivity and chemical inertness. The volcanic eruption of gas and liquid changes state and eventually becomes solid. Cavation, state change, yielding electrolysis on propellers is explained more fully with this insight. Tanker cleaning with steam can ignite a flammable cargo. Sometimes, a frozen lake will flash when it cracks. Adhesive tape reveals a lightning flash where it pulls from the roll. Our understanding of change of state is incomplete. When the electron activity is considered, the believability of change of state is more robust. When lightning in a thunderstorm is contemplated, what is happening where did the electrons go — how many ingredients are involved? Lightning is not part of the storm, but, is manufactured as a result of the interaction of the ingredients. Therein is the missing puzzle piece. How is the manufacturing occurring? The static buildup from friction, with the earth or among the ingredients, is weak, at most, and perhaps altogether unbelievable Obviously not evident. Perhaps we are like fish and dont know what it is like to feel wet? The free electrons are imbedded to make the change of state proceed from gaseous to solid and the cloud exhibits a positive charge. The converse is true. This is a better understanding of why whats happening than previously explained with friction.

    MAGNETIC POLES

    1. The atmosphere is composed of many electrons. When the planet rotates, the right-hand rule is applied and a north and south pole is formed
    2. The solar system can demonstrate these as magnetic poles will form on the planets consistent with their direction of rotation, or, none at all if there is no atmosphere or rotation.
    Joseph R. Bolze
    Registration Number / Date: TXu002043073 / 2016-12-29

    • Massimo PORZIO says:

      Hi Joe,
      I’ve no clue about how lightning form. I always get the friction hypothesis as the right one, but you can be right too ((my opinion, for what it’s worth)).
      My only thought about volcanic lightning is that the reason they form up there, it could be not only because of the electrostatic field could be enhanced by some physical event at the volcano crater, but simply because ab-sorbing water the volcanic ash became conductive:

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1474706511002592

      This should reduce the impedance of the electrostatic path helping to ignite the discharge up there at the volcano top.

      Have a great day.

      Massimo

    • David says:

      Joseph, it seems to me your theory doesn’t explain pole reversal. Wouldn’t pole reversal require a reversal in the direction of Earth’s rotation (which certainly did not happen)?

  22. BK Mart says:

    The Thetans are escaping! We’re all doomed!!!

  23. jk says:

    I’m not saying it aliens..but it’s aliens.

  24. Cjones1 says:

    At first, I thought it might be piezoelectric discharges associated with geological movement, but since the flashes seem to be associated with the volcanic gases and some distance away, I suspect lightning or reflectivity of light from a nearby source.

  25. satellitesarefake says:

    that is some of the shittiest pictures i have seen. look at how they overlay clouds on the fake image.

    supposedly there are 40,000 satellites all orbitting perfectly while never crashing into each other or meteorites!

    how exactly do you prevent your satellite from getting hit my a meteor?

    use your head satellites are fake and everything is ground based.

    • Charles Miller says:

      The general public has a terribly skewed perception of the satellites and “space junk” in earth orbit. You could fit all manmade satellites and space junk COMBINED into a single Wal-Mart parking lot, yet you can barely even see a Wal-Mart parking lot from the cruising altitude of a commercial airliner. Now imagine that meager amount of junk spread out over hundreds of thousands of miles in three dimensions. It would be like scattering a single bucket of confetti over the entire Pacific Ocean…you would never know it was there. The fact is, you could go into earth orbit for weeks without ever spotting a satellite or a piece of space junk.

    • Steve Kasian says:

      BAHAHAHA!!! Use your head, people!!! LOL!!! Says the dolt who believes in a Flat Earth. LOL!!! You can’t make this level of stupid up.

    • wert says:

      Troll. Not bad. Just stupid.

  26. David Schneider says:

    It is the precursor to the emergence of Rodan. Evacuate the area immediately.

  27. Mark Webb says:

    They’re lightning, dum bass!

  28. Human as you says:

    We live in an electric universe, eruptions create huge amounts of energy which create electricity and plasma emissions. Normal.

  29. lemiere jacques says:

    exploding polar bears

  30. William Johnson says:

    EQL (earthquake lights)

    • Steve Kasian says:

      BINGO! And they better start seriously studying them – particularly in places where they can be predicted, such as an actively quaking volcano – to advance our scientific understanding of them. They could hold the key to developing plasma weapon (phaser & photon torpedo) technologies. Hehe Just kidding about the previous sentence.

  31. John McCormick says:

    That is in a pattern of SOS – seems impossible though

  32. Godzilla monitor says:

    That flash is Godzilla awakening to go fight North Korea evil monster that is planning an attack on tokeyo

  33. Space Rocks says:

    Meteor strikes. We are in a meteor shower and all the new booms people are hearing are meteor strikes.

    • Charles Miller says:

      The vast majority of meteors appear at such a great altitude, no sounds whatsoever are associated with them.

    • Steve Kasian says:

      Meteors do not “strike;” They burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. MeteorITES strike.

      Nevertheless, the “booms” being heard all over the world have nothing to do with meteors, meteorites, or anything else coming in from space. They are being caused by the ongoing flight testing of airborne scramjet vehicles by the US, China, and Russia. NASA has specifically announced in recent weeks that they would be testing supersonic commercial transport aircraft over North America, with aircraft continuously breaking the sound barrier in order to test shockwave intensities at ground level. Some of these booms may be very loud while others may not be heard at all.

  34. Charles Miller says:

    There are similar flashes far offshore that occur simultaneously with the supposed volcanic flashes on the island. Looks like nothing more than video artifacts.

  35. Steve Kasian says:

    Duh! They’re “earthquake lights.” They need to be taken very seriously and studied, as well, as this is the perfect opportunity to do so as they are somewhat predictable in that they are bound to appear due to the continuous tremors going on.

    • lewis says:

      I’m sure they’re caused by an excess of CO2. Supplied by man of course.

      Please send my stipend to:

  36. Robert Dragon says:

    Piezo-electric effect from the magma pressure around the volcano.

  37. ren says:

    Again, a strong eruption of the Agung.

  38. William Brower says:

    I have found the end of the internet where I have found a website where the comments are troll and politics free. It is so refreshing to see and learn from intelligent discussions in a comments section. Thank you all.

    • Dan Chimichanga says:

      So I probably shouldn’t attempt to advance the theory that the flash is nothing but Forrest Gump testing his new Bubba Flash camera?

      Surely there is room for a little humor at the end of the internet, right? 😉

    • Des says:

      Sorry …. which site is that?? It’s certainly not this one.

  39. I’ve read enough Kaiju books to know how this ends!

  40. Gazoo says:

    Satellites are fake. There is no proof they exist.

  41. Bob Enyart says:

    And remember earthquake lights.

  42. Gordon Robertson says:

    How about ball lightning related to super hot gases from the volcano forming a temporary plasma?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4750304/Ball-lightning-finally-explained-scientists.html

    It happened at Mount Pelee in Martinique in 1902. Pyroclastic flows of super hot gases mixed with volcanic dust flowed down the mountain and across the harbour, setting ships afire. In the dark they glowed red.

    I recall studying that in a geology class quite a while back.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyroclastic_flow

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      The plasma glowed red, not the ships lit on fire by them, which no doubt glowed red as well.

      • ren says:

        Temperatures in eastern Siberia fell below -60 C. Remember that this is only November.
        The forecast of polar vortex indicate a strong winter attack in the eastern United States.
        https://scontent-frt3-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/24174709_743554212517194_3194901360688106336_n.png?oh=1a60a4ba6965b059625a068b78ae06eb&oe=5A8B4910

        • Gordon Robertson says:

          ren…”Temperatures in eastern Siberia fell below -60 C. Remember that this is only November”.

          That’s cold!!

          Just finished a book in which explorers skiied to the North Pole in 2005 while using dogs to pull sleds.

          Part of the message in the book was the effects of humans on climate change. They left the northern shores of Canada in March in temperatures in the mid -30s and skiied on the frozen ocean toward the Pole. They were trying to corroboarte the claim of Peary in the early 20th century that he had reached the Pole in 37 days from Ellesmere island.

          Most of the way, the temperatures were -30s to -40s, with a fair amount of snow storms and high winds. Only in late April did the temperatures begin to rise toward 0C. One guy fell into the ocean through a lead (break in the ice) and managed to survive. Then again, there is a female swimmer who has endured in the frozen Arctic and Antarctic waters for lengthy periods.

          What does it take to convince people that no climate change exists in the Arctic for most of the long winter they endure. There are still sub-zero C temps in late April and the Arctic Ocean is still covered in ice from the north shores of Canada to the North Pole and beyond. These explorers endured a typically harsh Arctic climate while whining about anthropogenic-induced climate change.

          The thing that really got me was the author continually going on about the lack of sun and solar warming and not seeming to get the meaning. It’s the lack of solar energy that freezes the Arctic and no amount of CO2 will ever fix that.

          The author did mention the Transpolar Drift, an ocean current that moves west to east, pushing ice into the North Atlantic. He related good information as to how the Drift causes inordinate warming at the North Pole, which might explain why the NP can reach 0c while the rest of the Arctic is -40C. Why would the Drift and other Arctic Ocean circulation like the Beaufort Gyre not cause the spasmodic warming in the Arctic that moves around month to month?

          What proof do we have that the current conditions in the Arctic have not been there on a regular basis all along? Most of the evidence for climate change in the Arctic is anecdotal evidence. Even the author relied on subjective information from locals. We know the Arctic was just as warm in 1914 and the early 1920s, there is written proof of that.

  43. Des says:

    So after all this, what was Agung’s VEI rating? As strong as the ’63 eruption?

    • Des says:

      If not then no effect on global climate.

    • barry says:

      We’ll see what happens.

    • barry says:

      Prof Bill McGuire, Emeritus Professor of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, University College London, said:

      “While the situation is currently uncertain, Mount Agung has the potential for a major eruption that can impact upon the global climate as well as upon the local area. The last eruption in 1963, scored a five on the Volcano Explosivity Index, putting it roughly on a par with the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens (Washington State, USA).

      That 1963 blast killed up to 1500 people on Bali, and also had an impact on the climate. Agungs eruptions seem to be very rich in sulphur, which has a significant cooling effect if it gets into the stratosphere.”

      https://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2017/11/29/mt-agung-eruption-expert-reaction/

  44. ossqss says:

    Electrostatic ball lightning?