Volcanoes can make their own weather. If you didn’t know that by now, where’ve you been? You’ve got volcanic lightning and thunder, volcanic fog, pyrocumulus clouds – lava-driven thunderstorm clouds – and more.
Kilauea, not one to shy away from all these meteorological shenanigans, has also recently been spotted producing lavanadoes, otherwise known as volcanic tornadoes.
Now, to be fair, they’re not technically called that. There isn’t actually a term for them at all, and meteorologists and volcanologists have been chatting about what names to give certain phenomena. Considering how things like volcanic fog and volcanic haze become “vog” and “laze”, though, we’d vote for lavanado.
The image of the somewhat rare lavanado on Kilauea’s flanks was first captured by photographer Anthony Quintano of Honolulu Civil Beat. It's since appeared in a few places, including the Washington Post. It’s exactly what it looks like – a spinning vortex of air, flinging lava blebs all over the place as it’s partly fueled by the searing ground beneath it.
This lavanado was spotted near the hardworking Fissure 8 in the Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ). Fairly overactive compared to most of its brethren, this fissure has been tapping deep magmatic sources, generating lava fountains at temperatures of 1,116°C (2,040°F) – pretty much as hot as lava can get.
It’s also generating lava fountains, shooting up into the sky at heights exceeding that of 20-story buildings. In fact, so much lava’s spattering out of this fissure that it’s generating its own cinder cone, a small volcanic mound-like feature.
All this thermal energy is helping to drive the emergence of those aforementioned pyrocumulus clouds, and, as it so happens, a lavanado or two here and there – but how?