Electricity in Volcanic Clouds

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  28 May 1965:
Vol. 148, Issue 3674, pp. 1179-1189
DOI: 10.1126/science.148.3674.1179


In November of 1963 an oceanic volcano produced an island, Surtsey, just off the southern coast of Iceland. The volcanic crater was often flooded with sea water. Vigorous eruptions of steam and tephra were accompanied by an enhancement of the normal fine-weather potential gradient, and lightning was often observed. Measurements of atmospheric electricity and visual and photographic observations lead us to believe that the electrical activity is caused by the ejection from the volcano into the atmosphere of material carrying a large positive charge. The concentration of charge in the eruption plume as it issued from the orifice of the volcano is estimated to be of the order of 105 or 106 elementary charges per cubic centimeter.

Stay Connected to Science