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Wild Phenomena Resembling Tornado, But Made From Steam! Check Out This Amazing Phenomena

I think everyone knows about tornadoes, waterspouts, and dust devils. These phenomena are caused for different reasons, but they all are spinning vortices that appear as long vertical tubes of rapidly rotating air. Did you know there is another much less know version that can appear only under unique circumstances called the steam devil!



Steam Devil



What Causes A Steam Devil?


This one is actually fairly straight forward. Basically to create a steam devil all you need relatively warm water below relatively colder air. The warm water heats the atmosphere right above the water created an unstable situation where cold air is above warm air. This premise is the basis for convection and causes the warm air to rise quickly. This allows horizontal rolls to develop and if one of those rolls can get tilted vertically then you get a steam devil. It is the same situation that causes dust devils. As you can imagine this occurs quite often when we get our first cold snaps of the fall season making this phenomena noticeable if you are actually in place looking for it. The steam devil actually is seen quite frequently in Yellowstone National Park because of the warm steam geysers there. 



Steam devils in steam of Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Park.


Check out this amazing video of steam devils! Notice how similar they look to dust devils and waterspouts. The process that forms all three are very, very similar.





Steam devils are also notorious where volcanic lava enters into water creating the convective cells I mentioned above. It can be a breading ground for these steam devils. Check out this video from Hawaii of set after set of steam devils!




An interesting note is that research has shown that dust devils (similar to steam devils) rotate clockwise and counterclockwise about 50% of the time. That is in sharp contrast with tornadoes that rotate counter-clockwise or cyclonic nearly 95% of the time.



How To Make A Mini Steam Devil


I am sure the process got some of you thinking... can I make one? The answer is actually yes. To get a full fledged steam devil, you need a larger body water with cold air above it. To recreate the set of variables, you can actually just get a hot cup or coffee or tea. It may not occur everytime, but notice in the following video that you can actually see the beginning of multiple steam devils.





This is actually a good way to demonstrate convective cells and steam devils to kids if you ever want to explain a little science.


I suspect the first time we get a cold air mass in this fall, there will be a lot of eyes on the lakes / rivers to see if one happens. :)





It is fall storm season and if you want to be one of my storm spotters, you can join me on my facebook or twitter page. Just follow the link below and click "like" or "follow".



If you ever have any question, please remember I can be reached on facebook or twitter easily! Just follow the link below to my facebook or twitter page and click "LIKE/FOLLOW"!


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