- Short, quick bursts of lightning were detected when Alaska's Redoubt Volcano erupted last year.
- Some volcanoes spark huge lightning displays, while others have none.
- In total, three types of lightning are now tied to volcanoes.
When Alaska's Redoubt Volcano erupted last year, ash, gases and steam weren't the only things filling the air. The eruption also produced a new type of lighting -- small, quick sparks right at the start.
"We long suspected that the first eruption might be different -- and it was," University of Alaska volcano seismologist Stephen McNutt, told Discovery News.
By monitoring seismic data, researchers were able to get a jump on Redoubt and set up lightning detectors in the area two months before the volcano blew. Three-dimensional pictures produced from the arrays showed -- for the first time -- tiny sparks of lighting lasting just a millisecond or two inside the volcano's ash plume at the start of the eruption.
The team also mapped two other types of previously documented, though poorly understood, volcanic lighting: large bolts, stretching for several miles, which are similar to what is produced during thunderstorms; and intermediate-sized bolts up to about two miles in length that blast out of volcanic vents.