Get Out the Umbrella. It’s Volcano Weather!

January 29, 2016
Volcano Eruption Japan

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It was a strange weather report: cloudy with thunder, lightning and a chance of rocks and ash. On Sunday, August 18, Japan’s Mount Sakurajima exploded, with its largest eruption in decades and flooding global news reports with dramatic pictures of the 3-mile high eruption.

For the citizens of nearby Kagoshima, it merely meant getting out their umbrellas and raincoats. Some, especially schoolchildren, wore dust masks. Others held scarves in front of their faces when they trotted outside. Basically, they carried on as normal.

The erupting Sakurajima volcano – cloudy with thunder, lightning and a chance of rocks and ashes. Source: NASA

For Kagoshima, it is normal. This was the 500th eruption this year! They had had over 600 last year. The eruption was commonplace for Kagoshima, but for most of the world, it was spectacular with its mushroom cloud dwarfing a modern, bustling city. At night, lava glowed deep red and lightning flashed through the skies. (Scientists don’t know why volcanoes cause lightning. It may be electrical charges in the magma or colliding dust building up static.)

Mount Sakurajima and Kagoshima city Source: Wikipedia

Residents went about their business as the ash fell like snow. Drivers turned on their lights and occasionally trains stopped to clear off the tracks. People swept the ash into large city-issued yellow bags.

Kagoshima is proud of its volcano. The chemicals added to their soil allow them to grow the world’s largest radish (68.6 lb.) and prize winning tangerines. They have cheap geothermal energy and lovely hot springs. Manufacturers prize the volcanic glass for facial cream, glass, and insulation materials in energy-saving roofs. They have a large tourist industry and are busily promoting next year’s festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of their huge 1914 eruption. You can find their web site, Living in Harmony with Volcanoes, at .


Kagoshima is prepared for eruptions with dams to block the lava flow and convenient shelters to step out of the ash fall. Source:

They do prepare for large eruptions with dams and diversion ditches to direct the flow away from the city. Safety plans give procedures for different sized eruptions. Shelters and evacuation houses provide protection for citizens from heavy debris. They handle eruptions better than most cities handle heavy snowfall.

So admire the lovely pictures of the eruption. For Kogoshima, it’s just part of their normal volcano weather.

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.