Whether it’s the result of a natural rupture of the Earth’s crust or too much Chinese food, the Earth is belching volcanic debris all over the planet this week. As Hawaiians flee dangerous volcanic lava flowing towards their homes, Icelanders are on the lookout for a different kind of volcanic threat – hot-air tornadoes!
The picture above, which features a 1-kilometer high tornado of gas, was captured by an infrared camera that was designed to let pilots see through volcanic ash clouds. The hot-air tornado was kicking up dust around Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano on September 3, 2014. Scientists believe the tornado funnel, a vertically-oriented rotating column of air caused by the updraft of heated air from the volcano, is most likely filled with sulphur dioxide, gas, and volcanic ash.
The Bardarbunga volcano is located under an extensive glacier in Iceland. At 6,591 feet, it forms the second largest mountain in Iceland. It only erupts every 250-600 years so this week’s event is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence (and one that many scientists believe may have been triggered by conditions related to global warming). Check out more cool pictures of the Bardarbunga and other Icelandic volcano below.