Volcanic eruptions are always mesmerizing, yet terrifying sight. And do you know what is even more alarming than a gigantic mountain spitting out rocks and fire? A gigantic mountain spitting out rocks, fire and bolts of lightning – a phenomenon called volcanic lightning.
Volcanic lightning facts
Volcanic lightnings are basically volcanic eruption with lightning. Also called thunder volcano or dirty thunderstorm, volcanic lightning occurs when among the volcanic plume it is possible to see lightnings. It is suspected that around 25-35% of all eruptions are accompanied by volcanic lightning storms.
This phenomenon has been known and observed since ancient times, with the first ever recorded observation coming from Pliny the Younger. In 79 AD he send a letter to the historian Tacitus, describing events that lead to his uncle’s, Pliny the Elder, death – namely eruption of Mount Vesuvius. There he describes immense darkness, obscured by the transient blaze of lightning.
How does volcanic lightning occur?
An important volcanic lightning information is how are they created. In the end, we associate bolts of lightning with heavy clouds and rain, but none of those can be found in a volcano. There’s no easy answer and although scientist have identified a lot of possible causes, we still lack a definitive answer. The most important factor seems to be volcanic ejecta, thrown out with tremendous force during the eruption. The lightning is generated within ash cloud, where fragments of rock and ice particles collide, producing static charges.
One of by-products of volcanic lightning is a volcanic spherule – small glass ball, formed when lighting comes into contact with ash, melting it (the temperature of volcanic lightning can reach up to 30,000°C or 54,000°F!) and causing the sphere to form.