Space Science Reviews

, Volume 137, Issue 1, pp 399–418

Electrical Charging of Volcanic Plumes


    • Lancaster Environment CentreLancaster University
  • L. Wilson
    • Lancaster Environment CentreLancaster University
  • S. J. Lane
    • Lancaster Environment CentreLancaster University
  • J. S. Gilbert
    • Lancaster Environment CentreLancaster University
  • T. A. Mather
    • Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of Oxford
  • R. G. Harrison
    • Department of MeteorologyUniversity of Reading
  • R. S. Martin
    • Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of Cambridge

DOI: 10.1007/s11214-008-9362-z

Cite this article as:
James, M.R., Wilson, L., Lane, S.J. et al. Space Sci Rev (2008) 137: 399. doi:10.1007/s11214-008-9362-z


Many explosive terrestrial volcanic eruptions are accompanied by lightning and other atmospheric electrical phenomena. The plumes produced generate large perturbations in the surface atmospheric electric potential gradient and high charge densities have been measured on falling volcanic ash particles. The complex nature of volcanic plumes (which contain gases, solid particles, and liquid drops) provides several possible charging mechanisms. For plumes rich in solid silicate particles, fractoemission (the ejection of ions and atomic particles during fracture events) is probably the dominant source of charge generation. In other plumes, such as those created when lava enters the sea, different mechanisms, such as boiling, may be important. Further charging mechanisms may also subsequently operate, downwind of the vent. Other solar system bodies also show evidence for volcanism, with activity ongoing on Io. Consequently, volcanic electrification under different planetary scenarios (on Venus, Mars, Io, Moon, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione and Triton) is also discussed.


Volcanic eruptionsLightningFractoemissionTribochargingParticle aggregation



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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008