Volcanic lightning

Volcanic lightning is an electrical discharge caused by a volcanic eruption rather than from an ordinary thunderstorm. Volcanic lightning arises from colliding, fragmenting particles of volcanic ash (and sometimes ice),[1][2] which generate static electricity within the volcanic plume,[3] leading to the name dirty thunderstorm.[4][5] Moist convection and ice formation also drive the eruption plume dynamics[6][7] and can trigger volcanic lightning.[8][9] Unlike ordinary thunderstorms, volcanic lightning can also occur before any ice crystals have formed in the ash cloud.[10][11]

Volcanic lightning
Volcanic lightning during the January 2020 eruption of Taal Volcano

The earliest recorded observations of volcanic lightning[12] are from Pliny the Younger, describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, "There was a most intense darkness rendered more appalling by the fitful gleam of torches at intervals obscured by the transient blaze of lightning."[13] The first studies of volcanic lightning were also conducted at Mount Vesuvius by Professor Palmieri who observed the eruptions of 1858, 1861, 1868, and 1872 from the Vesuvius Observatory. These eruptions often included lightning activity.[13]

Instances have been reported above Alaska's Mount Augustine volcano,[14] Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano,[15] Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy,[16] and Taal Volcano in the Philippines.[17][18]

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