03 February 2011
Posted in WFTV Severe Weather Center 9
Volcanic lightning is a phenomenon that happens within a volcano. There are three different types of lightning discharge in a volcano; dirty lightning, small sparks, and vent lightning. Dirty lightning resembles normal lightning and can be seen from far away. Small sparks can only be seen close up. The third kind is vent lightning; this discharge comes directly from the volcano mouth and is approximately two miles long.
According to Bradley Muller, a professor of Applied Meteorology in the Department of Applied Aviation Sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical , volcanic lightning is believed to be caused by a separation of charges. When one particle with negative charge is separated from the positive charged particle, lightning could develop between those two particles. This is the effect that causes lightning to form within a volcano. These charges develop when different materials rub or collide together; the friction between materials causes the charge itself. The moisture within the volcano can be a factor into whether the volcano gives off lightning. Moisture can affect the electrical resistance in the air and therefore affecting the amount of lightning present in the eruption. The intensity of the eruption also plays a part in the creation of volcanic lightning.
Volcanic lightning is similar to lightning in a thunderstorm but there are also many defining characteristics that are unique to a volcano, such as the types of electric discharge.