Volcanic Lightning

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Book Chapter

Publication Date



Electrification, Explosivity, Flash, Lightning, Near-vent lightning, Plume lightning, Vent discharges

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Volcanic lightning is a manifestation of electrical processes that occur in rising ash columns from explosive eruptions. Recent studies show the existence of three types of lightning: (1) vent discharges (small scale, short duration flashes right at the vent at the time of eruption), (2) near-vent lightning (medium scale, medium duration flashes above the vent in the first few minutes), and (3) plume lightning (sub-kilometer to large scale, long duration flashes beginning several minutes after eruption onset and lasting many minutes as the plume drifts downwind). The plume lightning resembles ordinary thunderstormlightning, and water and ice play important roles. Lightning has been reported at nearly 400 eruptions at 152 volcanoes. Although detailed studies are in the early stages, lightning has good potential to improve monitoring for explosive eruptions.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Volcanic Lightning, in H. Sigurdsson (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes (2nd Ed.), Academic Press, p. 1059-1067