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  1. Abstract

    Natural volcanic ashfall samples were examined, and high‐current (~100 kA) electrical impulse experiments were conducted to reveal the changes in grain size that can occur during lightning discharge. Experiments on pseudo ash samples manufactured from volcanic deposits of both rhyolitic and basaltic composition show that aggregates of very fine grained ash particles (<32 μm) melt and degas to form vesiculated pumice fragments >100 μm in size. In some cases, bubbles <5 μm in diameter expand and detach from the outer surface of the pumice to form hollow spheres of glass, one type of lightning‐induced volcanic spherule, while other bubbles fragment. Volcanic ashfall from the 2009 Redoubt eruption and the 2016 Pavlof eruption contains both pumiceous grains and individual spherules. Results of this study reveal that volcanic lightning will alter the grain size distribution of ash through melting, vesiculation, and fragmentation of individual particles or ash aggregates.

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