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volcanic lightning, lightning mapping, explosive eruptions

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Volcanic lightning studies have revealed that there is a relatively long‐lasting source of very high frequency radiation associated with the onset of explosive volcanic eruptions that is distinct from radiation produced by lightning. This very high frequency signal is referred to as “continual radio frequency (CRF)” due to its long‐lasting nature. The discharge mechanism producing this signal was previously hypothesized to be caused by numerous, small (10–100 m) leader‐forming discharges near the vent of the volcano. To test this hypothesis, a multiparametric data set of electrical and volcanic activity occurring during explosive eruptions of Sakurajima Volcano in Japan was collected from May to June 2015. Our observations show that a single CRF impulse has a duration on the order of 160 ns (giving an upper limit on discharge length of 10 m) and is distinct from near‐vent lightning discharges that were on the order of 30 m in length. CRF impulses did not produce discernible electric field changes and occurred in the absence of a net static electric field. Lightning mapping data and infrared video observations of the eruption column showed that CRF impulses originated from the gas thrust region of the column. These observations indicate that CRF impulses are not produced by small, leader‐forming discharges but rather are more similar to a streamer discharge, likely on the order of a few meters in length.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, v. 123, issue 8, p. 4157-4174

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