Yes, volcanic eruptions can cause spectacular lightning bolts, as if they weren’t awe-inspiring, and dangerous, enough already! When a volcano erupts it typically shoots massive amounts of dust and ash into the sky, which ionize the air and lead to large and frequent electrical discharges in the form of lightning. See the link below for some great photos of this phenomenon.
Yes! However, you need to have a basic understanding of how lightening works first. In an electrical storm, storm clouds form when the upper portion of the cloud obtains a positive charge, and the lower portion of the cloud obtains a negative charge. Scientists are still not sure how this phenomenon occurs. With evaporation and condensation continuing (it is a continuing process in which water from land is evaporated and condenses in colder temperatures of the sky which is also a process of cloud formation), this can cause a process of ionization which contributes to the postive and negative charges accumulating in the atmosphere and in the storm cloud itself. The charge separation in the cloud can create an electrical field, depending on how much the charge is able to build up. This electrical field can become so intense, the negative charge in the lower region of the cloud forces positive electrons into the Earth’s surface creating an electrical field between the cloud and the Earth itself. It can eventually lead to an intensity where negatively charged air particles are sucked up into the sky and positively charged air particles are sucked towards the Earth making the air itself ionized and prime for an electrical response i.e. lightening, which is formed from the stress of the positive and negative pull between the positively charged Earth and negatively charged lower clouds in the sky. Essentially, lightening is nature’s way of neutralizing the stress of the charge built up in the environment. In the case of volcanoes, it is believed (although scientists still aren’t sure) that the fine ash particles released by the eruption are suspended in the air and help to facilitate this same kind of reaction, especially because the air coming out of the volcano is much hotter than the air in the sky, which also helps in the separation of particles. See the attached links for more information. Additionally, see below for a really cool picture of a volcanic eruption that happened in Chile in June 2011.
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