Phenomena

Lava-Driven Waterspouts

Seven waterspouts align as lava from the Hawaiian volcano Kilauea pours into the ocean in this striking photo from photographer Bruce Omori. Like many waterspouts–and their landbound cousins dust devils–these vortices are driven by variations in temperature and moisture content. Near the ocean surface, air and water vapor heated by the lava create a warm, moist layer beneath cooler, dry air. As the warm air rises, other air is drawn in by the low pressure left behind. Any residual vorticity in the incoming air gets magnified by conservation of angular momentum, like a spinning ice skater pulling her arms in. This creates the vortices, which are made visible by entrained steam and/or moisture condensing from the rising air. (Photo credit: B. Omori, via HPOTD; submitted by jshoer)

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