Have you ever seen a volcanic tornado? This rare sight was captured on Tuesday over Leilani Estates in Hawaii as fissure No. 8 of Kilauea volcano spewed molten rock into the air, destroying homes and vegetation.
So how does a “lavanado” form? It’s the same process that forms firenadoes, only instead of a wildfire providing the conditions favorable for tornado formation, the extreme heat and strong winds are from the exploding volcano.
The intense heat from the volcano causes the air to rise rapidly and stretch out into a column. Under the right wind conditions, this column of air can begin to rotate, creating a twister made of fire, smoke, ash, and even lava if it can stay suspended in the air.
Here’s what photographer Anthony Quintano (@anthonyquintano/Instagram) shared about the experience it took to capture this rare photo:
I was in a media escort provided by the Hawaii National Guard so we were in Leilani Estates the only legal way to view and cover the lava inside the area. The fountain was shooting 200 feet in the air and it was roughly a half a mile away from where we were standing. That is fissure #8 on Tuesday, May 29.
Lavanadoes, firenadoes, and dust devils are all in the same class in that they are different from supercellular tornadoes we see out in the Great Plains, for example. Whereas supercellular tornadoes form from rotating thunderstorms, these instead form from rising hot air and converging winds at the surface.
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