ERUPTIONS: Erupting Volcano Creates Tornadolike Vortices


  • By: Jenna Abate
  • Posted on:February 28, 2014

Villagers and a journalist prepare to flee as Mount Sinabug releases pyroclastic flows during an eruption in Namantaran, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. (AP Photo)

After more than 400 years of no volcanic activity, the Indonesian volcano Mount Sinabug has recently awakened with a vengeance. Volcanic activity started in January and proceeded well into February 2014. Sinabug began to spew lava and incredible amounts of ash into the atmosphere that the locals haven’t seen in years.

Natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions are an incredible force of nature. A recent video from Sinabug has led scientists and meteorologists wondering if an event such as volcanic tornado is possible.

Eruptions, and thus volcanic plumes, have been known to spawn waterspouts and dust devils, but are they also capable of creating what appears in the video as volcanic miniature tornadoes?

“The exact process of tornado formation is not well understood, but it appears that there are three main ingredients: buoyant updraft, rainy downdraft and a mesocyclone,” Dr. Pinaki Chakraborty, Associate Professor of the Fluid Mechanics Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan.

Tornadoes are also often associated with supercell thunderstorms where updrafts and rainy downfalls are necessary components.

“The mesocyclone is the ‘mother vortex’ that, ultimately, conspiring with items one and two above [updrafts and downfalls], spawns tornadoes farther from the column,” Chakraborty said.

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Updated: March 1, 2014 — 2:00 am

The Author

Rich Fleetwood

Rich is the founder of SurvivalRing, now in it's 20th year, author of multimedia CDs and DVDs, loves the outdoors, his family, his geeky skill-set, and lives in rural Missouri, just a few miles from the Big Muddy. Always ready to help others, he shares what he learns on multiple blogs, social sites, and more. With a background in preparedness and survival skills, training with county, state, and national organizations, and skills in all areas of media and on air experience in live radio and television, Rich is always thinking about the "big picture", when it comes to helping individuals and families prepare for life's little surprises.

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