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Researchers study Mount Redoubt's lightning

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Alaska Volcano Observatory photo

Alaska's Mount Redoubt, a volcano that rumbled to life three years ago, was the topic of much scientific research.

Scientists deployed radio sensors to catalog and map lightning emitted with Redoubt's ash and smoke plume. Those reported volcanic lightning storms -- some reportedly as powerful as the famous Great Plains thunderstorms. Redoubt is a 9,000-foot volcano in the Aleutian Range about 110 miles southwest of Anchorage. It most recently erupted in 1989 and 2009. 

Scientists studying Redoubt say that more lightning means bigger volcanic plumes. Research professor and coauthor of the report, Stephen McNutt, said the findings are connected to the amount of ash within the plume. Bigger readings mean there's a lot of ash being emitted. It's possible, he said, to observe electrical activity at the onset of the eruption within the crater, but otherwise the lightning storms are typically invisible.

“We sometimes refer to [volcanic plumes] as dirty thunderstorms,” McNutt added. "That’s because ash clouds are opaque.”

To view the incredible pictures and read more about McNutt's research, visit ABC News here.