Back in June, we semi-jokingly called the phenomenon a lavanado. Turns out the USGS is erring on the more conservative side of things, while harboring rebellion in its ranks.
“We had a lot of discussion about what to call them and the exact scientific name is ‘whirlwind’,” Dr Wendy Stovall, a senior volcanologist with the USGS, told IFLScience. “In the field, geologists were often calling them lavanados. Even though that's not technical, it sure does seem to fit!”
Turns out these whirlwinds have been observed repeatedly over the course of the eruption. They’re not seen above fields of gloopy pahoehoe lava, though, as their crust cools too quickly. The only heat source significant enough is that of the fresh lava within the channel.
That’s not the only type of volcanic weather we’ve seen around Kilauea. That updraft is also creating plenty of pyrocumulus pyrocumulonimbus clouds too, which as we’ve previously explained are essentially lava-sourced thunderstorm clouds.
And that’s not all! “The billowing laze plume at the shoreline has also sometimes been producing weak whirls – perhaps a type of weak waterspout – and there have been reports of static discharges that I've seen described as an extremely weak type of lightning,” Ballard added.
Some of this laze-generated steam is even helping to pump moisture into the sky and making thunderstorms there more severe.
Clearly, Kilauea’s a weather-changing warlock. We, of course, are still #TeamLavanado.