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Fire and ice: Anak Krakatau triggers volcanic freezer in the upper troposphere
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  • Andrew Prata,
  • Arnau Folch,
  • Fred Prata,
  • Riccardo Biondi,
  • Hugues Brenot,
  • Corrado Cimarelli,
  • Stefano Corradini,
  • Jeff Lapierre,
  • Antonio Costa
Andrew Prata
Barcelona Supercomputing Center

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Arnau Folch
Barcelona Supercomputing Center
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Fred Prata
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Riccardo Biondi
University of Padova
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Hugues Brenot
Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy
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Corrado Cimarelli
Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
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Stefano Corradini
National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology
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Jeff Lapierre
Earth Networks Inc.
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Antonio Costa
Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia
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Volcanic activity occurring in tropical moist atmospheres can promote deep convection and trigger volcanic thunderstorms. Intense heating at ground surface and entrainment of moist air generates positive buoyancy, rapidly transporting volcanic gases and ash particles up to the tropopause and beyond. Volcanically-induced deep convection, however, is 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 this phenomenon lasted for six days. We show that this unprecedented event was triggered and sustained by phreatomagmatic activity at Anak Krakatau volcano, Indonesia from 22-28 December 2018. During this period, a deep convective plume formed over the volcano and acted as a ‘volcanic freezer’ producing ~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 radius from 20-30 μm). Our modelling suggests that ice particles began to form above 5 km and experienced vigorous updrafts (>30 m/s). These findings explain the impressive number of lightning strikes (~100,000) recorded near the volcano during this time. Our results, together with the unique dataset we have compiled, provide new insights into volcanic and meteorological thunderstorms alike.