When volcano seismologist Stephen McNutt at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’s Geophysical Institute saw strange spikes in the seismic data from the Mount Spurr eruption in 1992, he had no idea that his research was about to take an electrifying turn.
“At the moment the eruption started, there were these sparks of lightning coming from the vent of Redoubt that only lasted 1 to 2 milliseconds,” said McNutt, ” This was a different kind of lighting that we have never seen before.”
The residents and scientists who witnessed Mount Redoubt’s explosive eruptions described the events as a breathtaking display. “They all said that it was the most spectacular lightning display that they have ever seen,” said Thomas.
The team has also been studying how the newly-discovered volcanic lighting compares to familiar thunderstorm lightning. “It’s fascinating as we learn how volcanic lighting is the same and yet different form thunderstorm lightning,” said Behnke.
(c) 2010 Inside Science News Service