Lightning-induced high temperature and pressure microstructures in surface and subsurface fulgurites

Li Wei Kuo, Steven A.F. Smith, Chien Chih Chen, Ching Shun Ku, Ching Yu Chiang, Dennis Brown, Marianne Negrini, Wen Jeng Huang, Tze Yuan Chen

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1 Scopus citations


Cloud-to-ground lightning causes both high-temperature and high-pressure metamorphism of rocks, forming rock fulgurite. We demonstrate that a range of microstructural features indicative of high temperatures and pressures can form in fulgurites at the surface and in fractures up to several meters below the surface. In comparison to a granite reference sample collected from a borehole at a depth of 138 m, microstructures in both the surface and fracture fulgurite are characterized by: (i) the presence of glass, (ii) a phase transformation in K-feldspar with the presence of exsolution lamellae of plagioclase, and (iii) high residual stresses up to 1.5 GPa. Since this is the first time that fracture-related fulgurite has been described, we also carried out a 1-D numerical model to investigate the processes by which these can form. The model shows that the electric current density in fractures up to 40 m from the landing point can be as high as that on the surface, providing an explanation for the occurrence of fracture-related fulgurites. Our work broadens the near-surface environments in which rock fulgurite has been reported, and provides a detailed description of microstructures that can be compared to those formed during other types of extreme metamorphic events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22031
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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