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  1. Abstract

    Lightning‐induced volcanic spherules (LIVS) are glasses produced by the rapid melting and solidification of molten volcanic ash grains. High temperatures generated by lightning will alter the physical and chemical properties of minerals exposed to the discharge. Laboratory experiments reveal that LIVS glass composition varies depending on the starting material, exhibiting heterogeneous compositional features common in other glasses created by cloud‐to‐ground lightning, nuclear explosions, and high velocity impact events. This study uses scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive spectroscopy, and Raman spectroscopy to investigate the structure and Raman signatures of lightning‐induced glass spherules manufactured from five igneous minerals (<32 μm powders of albite, labradorite, augite, hornblende, and magnetite). LIVS were created through high‐current impulse experiments using peak currents of 25 and 40 kA. Analysis of the post‐experimental albite, labradorite, augite, and hornblende LIVS reveal primarily homogeneous silicate or aluminosilicate glasses with limited heterogeneity. Their amorphous Raman spectra are comparable to rhyolitic and mafic natural glasses along with Na2O‐K2O‐Al2O3‐SiO2, CaCO3‐Al2O3‐SiO2,and CaO‐MgO‐SiO2synthetic glass networks. A few of the augite and hornblende LIVS spectra exhibit premelting effects, which occur below the melting point and represent the onset of cation disordering in phases that remain crystalline. Magnetite samples produced crystal‐rich, glass‐poor LIVS characterized by the growth of dendritic microcrystals and crystalline spectra that also contain a few bands alluding to the composition of their silicate–phosphate glass matrix. By understanding these chemical changes induced by lightning, we can extract information from other types of glasses produced during high temperature, short duration events.

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  2. Abstract

    The physical properties of minerals are modified by the high temperatures of volcanic lightning during explosive eruptions. Alteration involves rapid heating and volatilization, melting, and fusion of ash grains within the discharge channel, followed by rapid quenching into new glassy textures. High current impulse experiments reveal that lightning alters not only the morphology and mineralogy of volcanic ash but also its magnetic properties. We investigate lightning‐induced magnetic changes in five igneous minerals (<32 μm powders of albite, labradorite, augite, hornblende, and magnetite) by comparing hysteresis parameters before and after impulse experiments conducted at peak currents of 25 and 40 kA. Both the paramagnetic and ferrimagnetic behaviors of the samples were altered, which we interpret as a superposition of two processes. (a) Rapid melting allows iron contained within inclusions of Fe‐oxides and Fe‐bearing silicates to diffuse into the newly formed melt, thereby increasing the paramagnetism of the resulting glass. (b) Nucleation and growth of magnetite from the newly formed melt increases the ferrimagnetic behavior of the post‐experimental samples. Nominally non‐Fe‐bearing silicates like albite and labradorite have significantly increased paramagnetism and ferrimagnetism. Fe‐bearing silicates like augite and hornblende contain higher concentrations of ferrimagnetic inclusions, from which Fe diffuses into the newly formed melt, thereby increasing paramagnetism while decreasing ferrimagnetism. Experiments conducted on magnetite produced new magnetite crystals with dendritic habits. Although specific to volcanic ash, these results provide important insights into the magnetism of other materials affected by lightning on Earth, the Moon, and throughout the solar system.

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  3. 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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