How this volcano eruption led to several hours of lightning

A new study of the eruption dynamics of the Taal Volcano in the Philippines shows how it led to prolonged lightning activity.

Published Thu, Jan 20 2022 4:30 AM CST   |   Updated Wed, Feb 16 2022 5:34 PM CST

The new study was published in the Geological Society of America's journal Geology.

How this volcano eruption led to several hours of lightning 01 |

The study focuses on the eruption of the Taal Volcano in the Philippines, which began a series of eruptions starting in January 2020, 43 years after its last eruption. The plume of volcanic ash rising led to thousands of land-to-ground lightning strikes occurring over several hours.

The electrical activity arises after the plume rises high enough in the atmosphere to freeze. Radio waves produced by lightning can be detected with remote sensing tools quickly, allowing scientists to collect data quickly. Along with lots of social media posts with pictures and videos of the event, scientists identified a "highly electrified region at the base of the umbrella cloud."

"Much more can be done to characterize an eruption when there are camera perspectives from all angles. And understanding the evolution of volcanic lightning helps us recognize the early warning signs of ash hazards to aircraft," said lead author Alexa Van Eaton.

In the umbrella cloud they also observed cold plasma discharges sparking amongst the clouds.

"We were surprised to find the high-altitude umbrella cloud crawling with these tiny, blue streamers. It's still an enigma how these little ribbons of ionized air relate to powerful lightning," continued Van Eaton.

You can read more from the study here.

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