All Weather News

“Volcanado”: See What Happens When a Tornado Meets a Volcano

17 Sep 2014, 4:42 pm

No, it’s not a spin-off of the absurd — and surprisingly much-loved — “Sharknado” series of movies, but video coming out of Iceland shows a seemingly improbable sight. It’s a “tornado” racing over an active lava field, rather it’s a whirlwind — much like a dust devil — developing over super-heated, molten rock.

The lava devil formed over the Holuhraun lava field, which is near the erupting Icelandic volcano, Bardarbunga. The volcano came to life in late August, as migrating magma finally reached the surface through a fissure in the Holuhraun lava field. The eruption briefly closed the airspace around the area.

According the the Washington Post, the specialized infrared camera that caught the whirlwind was being used to monitor volcanic ash. Ash from an eruption can cause the complete failure of aircraft engines.

Much like a dust devil, or fire devil, the lava devil forms as a result of fast-moving, hot rising air. Since the pocket hot air is less dense than the surrounding air, it races upward; creating a low pressure at the surface. Depending on wind conditions, the rising column of air can being to rapidly rotate. The resulting vortex can pull in light debris and form a devil.

In the case of the lava devil, it lofted searingly hot volcanic gases and small pieces of molten rock, flinging them around the immediate area.

Here’s how the infrared camera’s manufacturer, Nicarnica Aviation, describes the event “On September 3rd, we noticed an interesting feature, similar to a dust devil but most likely composed of volcanic gases and ash particles.”

Despite the colloquial nickname of “volcanado,” the processes by which a tornado forms and this natural phenomenon developed are completely different.

Nevertheless, let’s all be grateful this has almost a zero percent chance of happening in America’s most tornado-prone areas. Because the only thing worse than a tornado is a tornado laden with lava.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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