Skip to content

First In Situ Observations of Gaseous Volcanic Plume Electrification

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3532-3539
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number6
DateAccepted/In press - 6 Mar 2019
DatePublished (current) - 28 Mar 2019


Volcanic plumes become electrically charged, often producing spectacular displays of lightning. Previous research has focused on understanding volcanic lightning, primarily the large electric fields produced by charging of ash particles. Here we report on the previously overlooked phenomenon of volcanic plume electrification in the absence of detectable ash. We present the first in situ vertical profile measurements of charge, thermodynamic, and microphysical properties inside predominantly gaseous plumes directly above an erupting volcano. Our measurements demonstrate that substantial charge (at least ±8,000 pC/m 3 ) is present in gaseous volcanic clouds without detectable ash. We suggest that plume charging may be enhanced by the emission of radon gas from the volcano, which causes ionization. This presents a hitherto unrecognized, but likely to be common, mechanism for charge generation in volcanic plumes, which is expected to modulate plume characteristics and lifetime. This process is currently neglected in recognized mechanisms of volcanic plume electrification.

    Research areas

  • volcanic lightning, plume electrification, plume charging, radon, balloon instrumentation

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (final published version)

    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via Wiley at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Final published version, 887 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups