Mostly Mute Monday: Volcanic Lightning
“During thunderstorms, approximately ten Coulombs of charge — some 10^20 electrons — are exchanged with every bolt, representing the release of an incredible build-up of energy.
During a volcanic eruption, however, the incredible heats cause neutral atoms to become ions, either positively or negatively charged, which then separate due to differences in masses, temperatures and physical cross-sections. The aerodynamics separates the particles even farther, and when the threshold of breakdown voltage is crossed, a lightning strike occurs.”
When it comes to lightning, you inevitably think of thunderstorms, rain, and the exchange of huge amounts of charge between the clouds above and the Earth. But there’s another sight that’s perhaps even more spectacular: volcanic lightning!