Vortex Clouds Around Mount Etna

November 26, 2021

Etna turbini 21092021

Photographer: Rosario Catania

Summary Author: Rosario Catania; Cadan Cummings

The photo above shows Mount Etna, one of the tallest and most active volcanoes in Europe, producing a spectacular cloud vortex from its eruption plumes. Etna frequently produces eruptive columns formed by volcanic ash, magma fragments and gas- which is also known as tephra- mixed additionally with water vapor. The force of this vertical jet is a product of the accumulated pressure from the eruption. Remarkably, the plumes can rise for miles in the atmosphere and often reach the stratosphere. In addition to their astounding height, the eruptive columns can also achieve very high temperatures and become incredibly dense. Sometimes these columns can be observed near Etna vapor clouds and darker clouds of tephra, which can precede one another and at times even overlap or merge together. The result of this interaction can be spectacular and occasionally vortices have been observed that connect between the two formations. These vortices are likely formed because of the temperature gradient between the hot eruption column and comparably colder clouds. In the picture you can see these connections between the two types of clouds.

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