Watch One Of The World’s Most Active Volcanoes Produce Vortex Rings

Mount Etna is an iconic volcano found on the eastern coast of Sicily, an island off the coast of Italy. This is the most active stratovolcano in the world and as of Saturday, April 6, Mount Etna has been up to a few tricks.

Footage captured from the island shows plumes of what looks like smoke being puffed out of the side of the volcano and transformed into smoke rings that drift through the sky. Reports suggest that a new crater has opened up leading to the smoke being expelled. 

“No volcano on earth produces so many rings of steam as Etna. We have known this for quite some time. But now it is beating all previous records,” said Boris Behncke, a volcanologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology of Catania, in a statement to the Telegraph

The rings are harmless and don’t necessarily mean that an eruption is about to happen. They are actually called volcanic vortex rings and are made of volcanic gases and condensed water vapor, not smoke.


“On its own it is colourless but once it reaches the condensation level then it becomes whitish – and that’s what we are seeing. The reason why you have this water vapour coming up and condensing so quickly and then forming these rings is because of the temperature difference”, said Australian National University volcanologist Ana Casas Ramos in a statement to ABC News. “The water vapour is coming out very hot and then once it reaches shallow levels, like atmospheric levels, it then encounters cold air and that’s when you get this condensation.”

The New York Times reported on a study that suggested that the rings are formed in the same way a dolphin underwater could blow bubble rings or someone smoking could make smoke rings, and that the gases slow down and loop over themselves when expelled. The creation of volcano vortex rings is largely down to the gases within the volcano, but also the shape of the opening of the crater leads to the these rings floating off into the sky. 

“Results show that the formation of volcanic vortex rings requires a combination of fast gas release from gas bubbles (slugs) at the top of the magma conduit and regularity in the shape of the emitting vent,” wrote the authors in their paper

Locals in the area have dubbed the phenomenon the “Lady of the Rings” on social media. 

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