“Firenados”: What Causes A Fire Tornado? (Photo Gallery)

Seven News in Australia recently released video of a fire tornado captured by Chris Tangey of Alice Springs Film and Television. A still from that video went viral and had everyone asking: What is a fire tornado? And what can cause one?

The recently surfaced “Firenado” picture was captured by Chris when he noticed a wildfire near Curtin Springs in Australia. Right as he began filming the blaze, a small tornado landed. Chris said that when the tornado touched down,

“It sounded like a jet fighter going by, yet there wasn’t a breath of wind where we were.”

According to Australia’s WPTV.com, the twister landed right in the middle of the fire,

“…causing it to build into a spinning flame.”

Chris Tangey, the Australian filmmaker who captured the firenado footage (Image courtesy of Good Morning America)

A phenomenon like this is rarely caught on video, but it isn’t exactly a rare occurrence. Here’s Jason Forthofer, a mechanical engineer at the U.S. Forest Services’s Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana, speaking about the phenomenon back in 2010:

“Also known as fire whirls, fire devils, or even firenados, these whirlwinds of flame are not really rare, just rarely documented.”

Fire tornadoes occur when intense heat and turbulent wind conditions combine to form a whirling fiery vortex. A fire tornado consists of a core—the part that is actually on fire—and an invisible pocket of rotating air that feeds fresh oxygen to the core.

Edit: We originally said the video was removed from Youtube for copyright infringement. Then, Chris Tangey himself informed us that it is available on vimeo. Thanks Chris! This footage is amazing!

Check out some stills from the video and other “Firenados” below


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