Volcanic mountains

An explosive volcanic eruption triggered an hour-long thunderstorm • Earth.com

The January 2020 eruption of the Taal volcano in the Philippines became electrified and caused a thunderstorm lasting several hours, with thousands of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. A new study conducted by the United States Geological Surveythe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Vaisala Inc. highlight how advances in global lightning detection may provide new ways to characterize explosive volcanism.

According to scientists, explosive volcanic eruptions can create lightning strikes that are detected almost instantly around the world. Since the radio waves produced by lightning travel at the speed of light, they can be detected extremely quickly even in very remote areas.

“As soon as the volcanic ash plume rose high enough to freeze, its electrical activity ignited our sensors,” said study lead author Alexa Van Eaton, a physical volcanologist at the US Geological Survey. “It’s the perfect storm – explosive eruptions can create lightning that is detected around the world.”

Additionally, since satellite images and hundreds of photos and videos posted on social media were also available, Van Eaton and his colleagues were able to get a more complex picture of how the eruption developed and spread. caused the massive storm.

“Much more can be done to characterize an eruption when there are camera perspectives from all angles,” Van Eaton said. “The eruption was in a large urban area, so people posted photos of volcanic lightning as it happened, revealing a highly electrified region at the base of the umbrella cloud. Understanding Lightning Evolution volcano helps us recognize the warning signs of ash hazards to aircraft.

However, the researchers admitted that remote sensing studies such as this can only provide “a broad picture of an eruption” and cannot replace the work of local geologists who know the area very well.

Further research is needed to further explain the miniature sparks seen in the ash plume photos. “We were surprised to find the high-altitude umbrella cloud crawling with those tiny blues streamerswhich are distinguished from lightning because they are discharges of cold rather than hot plasma. “The relationship between these small ribbons of ionized air and powerful lightning remains an enigma,” Van Eaton concluded.

The study is published by the Geological Society of America in the review Geology.

By Andrei Ionescu, Terre.com Personal editor