Type of publication
Article in journal
Year of publication
Scientific Reports

Andrew T. Prata, Arnau Folch, Alfredo J. Prata, Ricardo Biondi, Hugues Brenot, Corrado Cimarelli,  Stefano Corradini, Jeff Lapierre and Antonio Costa


Prata, A.T., Folch, A., Prata, A.J. et al. Anak Krakatau triggers volcanic freezer in the upper troposphere. Sci Rep 10, 3584 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-60465-w

Short summary
Volcanic activity occurring in tropical moist atmospheres can promote deep convection and trigger volcanic thunderstorms. These phenomena, however, are rarely observed to last continuously for more than a day and so insights into the dynamics, microphysics and electrification processes are limited. Here we present a multidisciplinary study on an extreme case, where volcanically-triggered deep convection lasted for six days. We show that this unprecedented event was caused and sustained by phreatomagmatic activity at Anak Krakatau volcano, Indonesia during 22–28 December 2018. Our modelling suggests an ice mass flow rate of ~5 × 106 kg/s for the initial explosive eruption associated with a flank collapse. Following the flank collapse, a deep convective cloud column formed over the volcano and acted as a ‘volcanic freezer’ containing ~3 × 109 kg of ice on average with maxima reaching ~1010 kg. Our satellite analyses reveal that the convective anvil cloud, reaching 16–18 km above sea level, was ice-rich and ash-poor. Cloud-top temperatures hovered around −80 °C and ice particles produced in the anvil were notably small (effective radii ~20 µm). Our analyses indicate that vigorous updrafts (>50 m/s) and prodigious ice production explain the impressive number of lightning flashes (~100,000) recorded near the volcano from 22 to 28 December 2018. Our results, together with the unique dataset we have compiled, show that lightning flash rates were strongly correlated (R = 0.77) with satellite-derived plume heights for this event.