Sparks, Ash, & Fire: A Spatial Analysis of Volcanic Lightning within Eruption Clouds

Cassandra Smith
Thursday, November 19, 2020 · 11:00 am
Virtual / Zoom
Hosted by
Mark Jellinek

The application of volcanic lightning for the detection and characterization of explosive eruptions is an exciting and developing field in remote sensing. Globally-detected volcanic lightning can be combined with plume modeling to help develop links between electrical phenomena, eruptive processes, and volcanic ash transport. In this talk I will discuss recent eruptions that had globally detected volcanic lightning, including Raikoke, Ulawun, Anak Krakatau, and Bezymianny. Specifically, the June 2019 eruption of Raikoke volcano in the Kuril Islands of Russia, produced 11 distinct ash clouds with 753 lightning strokes recorded. Most lightning occurred NW of the volcano (distances < 20 km), even though the eruption cloud traveled primarily East. Wind models during the eruption show low altitude (< 3km) winds blowing towards the NW. This may indicate that lightning NW of the vent was concentrated in the low altitude jet/column regions of the eruption cloud, or possibly in pyroclastic flows forming to the NW, rather than in the eastward-traveling buoyant umbrella region. This type of spatial distribution has sparked questions within the volcanic lightning community on what we can learn about eruption cloud ash transport and ice formation from globally detected volcanic lightning. I will discuss how we use the 1D numerical plume model Plumeria, the ash dispersion model Ash3D, and spatial distributions to analyze how volcanic lightning may be integrated into volcano monitoring.