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  1. Abstract

    The electrification of volcanic plumes has been described intermittently since at least the time of Pliny the Younger and the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius. Although sometimes disregarded in the past as secondary effects, recent work suggests that the electrical properties of volcanic plumes reveal intrinsic and otherwise inaccessible parameters of explosive eruptions. An increasing number of volcanic lightning studies across the last decade have shown that electrification is ubiquitous in volcanic plumes. Technological advances in engineering and numerical modelling, paired with close observation of recent eruptions and dedicated laboratory studies (shock-tube and current impulse experiments), show that charge generation and electrical activity are related to the physical, chemical, and dynamic processes underpinning the eruption itself. Refining our understanding of volcanic plume electrification will continue advancing the fundamental understanding of eruptive processes to improve volcano monitoring. Realizing this goal, however, requires an interdisciplinary approach at the intersection of volcanology, atmospheric science, atmospheric electricity, and engineering. Our paper summarizes the rapid and steady progress achieved in recent volcanic lightning research and provides a vision for future developments in this growing field.

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  2. The 21–22 June 2019 eruption of Raikoke volcano, Russia, provided an opportunity to explore how spatial trends in volcanic lightning locations provide insights into pulsatory eruption dynamics. Using satellite-derived plume heights, we examine the development of lightning detected by Vaisala’s Global Lightning Dataset (GLD360) from eleven, closely spaced eruptive pulses. Results from one-dimensional plume modeling show that the eruptive pulses with maximum heights 9–16.5 km above sea level were capable of producing ice in the upper troposphere, which contributed variably to electrification and volcanic lightning. A key finding is that lightning locations not only followed the main dispersal direction of these ash plumes, but also tracked a lower-level cloud derived from pyroclastic density currents. We show a positive relationship between umbrella cloud expansion and the area over which lightning occurs (the ‘lightning footprint’). These observations suggest useful metrics to characterize ongoing eruptive activity in near real-time. 
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  3. Abstract

    Explosive eruptions expel volcanic gases and particles at high pressures and velocities. Within this multiphase fluid, small ash particles affect the flow dynamics, impacting mixing, entrainment, turbulence, and aggregation. To examine the role of turbulent particle behavior, we conducted an analogue experiment using a particle‐laden jet. We used compressed air as the carrier fluid, considering turbulent conditions at Reynolds numbers from approximately 5,000 to 20,000. Two different particles were examined: 14‐μm diameter solid nickel spheres and 13‐μm diameter hollow glass spheres. These resulted in Stokes numbers between 1 and 35 based on the convective scale. The particle mass percentage in the mixture is varied from 0.3% to more than 20%. Based on a 1‐D volcanic plume model, these Stokes numbers and mass loadings corresponded to millimeter‐scale particle diameters at heights of 4–8 km above the vent during large, sustained eruptions. Through particle image velocimetry, we measured the mean flow behavior and the turbulence statistics in the near‐exit region, primarily focusing on the dispersed phase. We show that the flow behavior is dominated by the particle inertia, with high Stokes numbers reducing the entrainment by more than 40%. When applied to volcanic plumes, these results suggest that high‐density particles can greatly increase the probability of column collapse.

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  4. Abstract

    Seismic waves are commonly used to monitor unrest before, during, and after volcanic eruptions. The source of seismic tremor during a sustained explosive volcanic eruption is not well understood. Recent observations of the 2016 eruption of Pavlof Volcano, Alaska, revealed a change in the relationship (hysteresis) between ash plume height and seismic amplitude over time. Based on similarities in physical processes and observed seismic tremor in rivers, we explore two key sources of seismic energy in the volcanic conduit: (1) forces exerted by particle impacts and (2) dynamic pressure changes by the turbulent flow. We develop a physical model calculating the seismic power spectral density (PSD), where forces on the conduit wall are convolved with the Green's function for Rayleigh waves. Using reasonable eruption parameters, the model is able to reproduce the frequency spectrum from the Pavlof eruption, although the modeled amplitudes are generally lower. We test the relative importance of different eruption parameters, including grain size, velocity, and conduit dimensions. We find that turbulence generally dominates over particle impacts. However, to reach the PSD amplitude during the Pavlof eruption, large grain sizes are required, as they have the greatest relative influence on the modeled amplitude. The hysteresis between plume height and seismic amplitude can then potentially be explained by grain size changes. The PSD shape is mostly determined by the Rayleigh‐wave quality factor Q, and substantial variations in seismic amplitude can be modeled assuming a constant mass eruption rate.

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  5. Abstract

    The origin of electrical activity accompanying volcanic ash plumes is an area of heightened interest in volcanology. However, it is unclear how intense an eruption needs to be to produce lightning flashes as opposed to “vent discharges,” which represent the smallest scale of electrical activity. This study targets 97 carefully monitored plumes <3 km high from Sakurajima volcano in Japan, from June 1 to 7, 2015. We use multiparametric measurements from sensors including a nine‐station lightning mapping array and an infrared camera to characterize plume ascent. Findings demonstrate that the impulsive, high velocity plumes (>55 m/s) were most likely to create vent discharges, whereas lightning flashes occurred in plumes with high volume flux. We identified conditions where volcanic lightning occurred without detectable vent discharges, highlighting their independent source mechanisms. Our results imply that plume dynamics govern the charging for volcanic lightning, while the characteristics of the source explosion control vent discharges.

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