Sep 09, 2014 I Paul Seaburn

What Would You Call a Tornado Filled With Hot Lava?

OK, it’s time to stop playing silly games like “What would happen if a tornado picked up a bunch of sharks?” If you want to see something really scary, check out these shots of a tornado in Iceland pulling hot lava out of an active volcano.

The lava is erupting from Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano, which has been acting up since mid-August when it began rumbling, first creating a series of earthquakes and then gushing out lava shots that reached a height of 700 feet.

On September 3rd, a pilot monitoring the air above and around the volcano for ash clouds (much more dangerous to aircraft than sharks) recorded the hot tornado with a new type of video camera designed to help see the fine volcanic ash.

Fred Prata of Nicarnica Aviation in Norway is the designer of the camera and, after viewing the video, estimated the funnel to be 3200 feet tall and probably filled with a combination of sulfur dioxide, gas and volcanic ash.

Since there were no weather conditions in the area that would spawn tornadoes, what could have caused this phenomenon?

Scientists monitoring the Bardarbunga and the Holuhraun lava lake suspect the tornado is actually more of a dust devil like the little dirt swirls you often seen in dusty fields on windy days. Heated air over the volcano rises, carrying fine, ultralight particles of dust, dirt and debris into the air. As horizontal winds hit the air, it begins to swirl and form a column. There’s continuous movement up and down as a convection cell is formed, exchanging hot and cool air up and down the column.

This is no ordinary volcano. Bardarbunga has erupted more lava than any other volcano on the planet in the last 10,000 years so .

Sounds pretty scary – at least enough for a movie – but the Icelandic Met Office says the volcanic tornado and Bardabunga itself currently present no threat to flights.

So, what would a movie about this phenomenon be called? Volcanado? Lavapalooza? Hotzilla?

Paul Seaburn
Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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