Volcanic Smoke Ring

Via NASA’s spaceweather.com Here’s something you don’t see every day, in fact it has only been seen once before by the volcano researchers that got the photo. The diameter of the ring must be huge to be visible at the photo distance. I’m estimating about 1-2km in diameter.

On May 1, 2010, 4:17 Pm Volcano Photographers Steve & Donna O’Meara were stunned when they photographed a perfectly shaped Volcanic Smoke Ring blown out by Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Southern Iceland.

Here’s the close up view:

Images ©Steve & Donna O’Meara http://VolcanoHeaven.tumblr.com

“This is a rare phenomenon,” say Steve and Donna. “We’ve only seen it one other time at Italy’s Stromboli volcano in 2001.”

Joseph Licciardi, an earth sciences professor from Oregon State University, was there to see it, too. “The ring was visible for five minutes and then fell apart,” he told the UK Dail Mail. “I am thrilled that I was present at the event.”

In addition to Eyjafjallajokull and Stromboli, volcanic smoke rings have also been observed at Mt Etna. Just how the rings form remains a mystery. It’s possible that bursts of gas through narrow vents would do the job, much like cigar or cigarette smokers blow rings with their mouths.

Smoke rings could soon become more common over Iceland. Eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull are usually followed by even bigger eruptions from the nearby Katla volcano. Indeed, experts are warning that an eruption of Katla may be close at hand. Check the odds!


Here’s smoke rings on Mt. Etna:

You can make smoke rings yourself with common home hardware:

There’s even underwater bubble rings:

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Phil's Dad
May 28, 2010 5:35 pm

Mauna Loa is 4th on the list of those due to blow (at 10/1). If it does what happens to the CO2 record? What’s the back-up plan?

Rhoda R
May 28, 2010 5:41 pm

Actually, I’ve been curious about why the world is taking the CO2 readings from the neighborhood of an active volcano. Doesn’t that skew the readings?

May 28, 2010 5:48 pm

Since smokers sometimes blew smoke rings and smoking is no longer legal in public buildings I’m glad to see that this volcanic smoke ring was blown outdoors and therefore legal.
Did I just write that? Anyway, it’s pretty cool to see.

May 28, 2010 6:02 pm

It burns, burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
(Jonny Cash)
I know what he’s talking about – just back from a business trip to India!

May 28, 2010 6:14 pm

wasn’t blowing smoke rings the scene in movies right after sex was supposed to have just occurred? Wow, that dates me doesn’t it, no need for symbolics now when the real deal is shown on movie screens.
So its good to know things are going well down there. Well done and all that.

May 28, 2010 6:17 pm

Good to know that the volcano has a sense of humor.

May 28, 2010 6:47 pm

“Explosive eruptions shook two huge volcanos in Central and South America on Friday, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and disrupting air traffic as ash drifted over major cities.”

May 28, 2010 6:50 pm

Blow baby blow…

Graham Dick
May 28, 2010 6:56 pm

Are you having a lend, AW? It looks suspiciously similar in I.D. to that ground based flue.

David Thomson
May 28, 2010 7:11 pm

The smoke and bubble ring structures appear to be electrical-magnetic phenomena due to the tight structures they form. They could be caused from diamagnetic forces acting on water molecules, the same force that causes water droplets.

May 28, 2010 7:13 pm

Ok, this is O/T, but I think I found “the missing heat” laughing at us, just to the southwest of Iceland in this photo.
You can see the ocean currents, unmodeled.

May 28, 2010 7:17 pm

Two cool things on first learning to scuba dive are realizing you’re breathing under water and bubble rings.

Dave Springer
May 28, 2010 7:19 pm

If Yellowstone pops, seek strong shelter immediately, crouch down low, place head between knees, and kiss your ass goodbye.

Gary Hladik
May 28, 2010 7:19 pm

It’s just Lucifer tossing out his old halo; spring cleaning, y’know.

Craig Moore
May 28, 2010 7:24 pm

If the smoke ring was the result from a poof, then the volcano is female.

May 28, 2010 7:35 pm

Rhoda R says: “Actually, I’ve been curious about why the world is taking the CO2 readings from the neighborhood of an active volcano. Doesn’t that skew the readings?”
No, the readings are not taken if there’s a local spike in CO2. It’s fairly easy to differentiate between atmospheric CO2 signal and sporadic volcanic releases. See:
“…the CO2 analyzer usually gives a very steady reading which varies by less than 3/10 of a part per million (ppm) from hour to hour….We only detect volcanic CO2 from the Mauna Loa summit late at night at times when the regional winds are light and southerly. Under these conditions, a temperature inversion forms above the ground, and the volcanic emissions are trapped near the surface and travel down our side of the mountain slope. When the volcanic emissions arrive at the observatory, the CO2 analyzer readings increase by several parts per million, and the measured amounts become highly variable for periods of several minutes to a few hours. In the last decade, this has occurred on about 15% of nights between midnight and 6 a.m.”

May 28, 2010 7:37 pm

Actually the real experts (try the eruptions blog) are saying that the recent Katla stories are nothing new and nothing to get excited about. His advice, be concerned when you see the Icelandic Met people announce that they are worried about Katla. The recent Katla stories are just puffery.

May 28, 2010 7:50 pm

Graham Dick says: “Are you having a lend, AW? It looks suspiciously similar in I.D. to that ground based flue.”
That “flue” is a silo.

Douglas DC
May 28, 2010 8:03 pm

The Ore-Ida Potato plant in Ontario, Oregon, does this every two minutes or so,
Winter is better, and I suspect a steam component, the volcanic ring, however is quite
a sight…

Jeff L
May 28, 2010 8:10 pm

OK – that is a cool photo – but in the age of photoshop , you have to ask, IS that real?

May 28, 2010 8:18 pm

Dolphins blow bubble rings and play with them:

May 28, 2010 9:05 pm

Jeff L says:
May 28, 2010 at 8:10 pm
OK – that is a cool photo – but in the age of photoshop , you have to ask, IS that real?

Appears to be legit IMO.

May 28, 2010 9:09 pm

David Thomson says:
May 28, 2010 at 7:11 pm

The smoke and bubble ring structures appear to be electrical-magnetic phenomena due to the tight structures they form. They could be caused from diamagnetic forces acting on water molecules, the same force that causes water droplets.

If you insist. I used to have a Wham-O Air Blaster which needed none of that fancy stuff. Today’s equivalents are at
http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/airblasters.html and
Once when I was a kid I saw a huge smoke ring from an industrial smoke stack a few miles from home. After using the Air Blaster, I concluded that there was some mildly explosive ignition in what ever fed the smoke stack and that surge made the smoke ring.

May 28, 2010 11:36 pm

That’s just cool – no matter who you are. Ain’t nature grand?

Graham Dick
May 29, 2010 12:39 am

jorgekafkazar says:
May 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm
“That “flue” is a silo.”

May 29, 2010 2:03 am

Some 60 years ago when the old crude oil burning, single cylinder Lanz Bulldog tractors were common around here in SE Australia, the big straight exhaust pipe from that single cylinder very slow revving engine was an excellent generator of smoke rings / vortex rings.
On a still morning, a blip on the throttle and that big single cylinder engine was away with a big “pop” and a nice impressive slowly rising and expanding smoke ring / vortex ring .
Another bit harder blip on the throttle at the right moment, another even bigger and louder and accelerating “pop” from that single big cylinder and a good operator could blow another smaller smoke ring / vortex ring clean through the slower larger ring often by then some 6 feet or more up above the exhaust pipe and sometimes followed by two or three more small smoke rings racing up through that large slower moving original smoke ring.
It was fascinating to watch.
And that has to be some pipe and some blast to blow that ring in the photo shot.

Daniel H
May 29, 2010 2:27 am

Eyjafjallajokull has got nothing on this kid:

May 29, 2010 2:47 am

How does a glacier emit a smoke ring? My Icelandic is at about the same level as my Cantonese and Zulu, but even I know that “jökull” means glacier. You don’t perchance mean Eyjafjöll (an Icelandic volcano), do you?

May 29, 2010 3:02 am

Or maybe its from a secret Minuteman launch?

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
May 29, 2010 3:39 am

Saint Gore was so upset by the CO2 emissions he threw away his halo.
How dare that volcano not do its part to save the planet!

Anthony Thompson
May 29, 2010 6:07 am

A smoke ring is known, in mathematical circles, as a “Hill’s vortex” after Professor Micaiah Hill – my great grandfather – who described the mathematics of this phenomenon in 1894. As Vice-Chancellor of London University he organised the disparate colleges into a single entity and was offered a knighthood (twice) turning it down on the grounds that the honours system was corrupting. Neither his brother, Sir George, the numismatist, who was Director of the British Museum, nor his son, Air Chief Marshall Sir Roderick, were so particular. As for his other son, my grandfather, Professor Geoffrey Hill, he designed the first swept-back wing, tail-less aircraft in 1925 and was one of the 3 or 4 most influential designers between the wars; his daughter Gwen was the first female consultant oncologist. Sadly, the genes have since reverted to the mean.

May 29, 2010 7:19 am

That smoke ring is beautiful, just the right acceleration of the gas out of a nearly circular vent.
On still, cold winter mornings here in Canada, it’s common to see smoke rings emitted from the exhaust pipes of certain vehicles as they move away from traffic lights. I think diesel pickup trucks do it most often, but I have seen it from several cars as well. Seeing it always brings a smile.

Sven Hanssen
May 29, 2010 7:27 am

When visiting Etna in the summer of 2000 the volcano was blow smoke rings like this. I remember seeing o number of them.

May 29, 2010 7:39 am

sheer puffery:-)

Northern Exposure
May 29, 2010 8:27 am

Volcanic ‘burps’…
Seems almost cartoon-worthy… a volcano saying : “spitooey” and then burping out a ring of smoke at the end.
Too cute.

Ed Murphy
May 29, 2010 10:04 am

Those volcanoes like to show off every now and then… reminding us who’s the real boss of this rock.

Edward Boyle
May 30, 2010 5:59 am

One of the most widely seen smoke ring sources was the cigarette advertisement in New York’s Times Square, which for several decades blew a large smoke ring horizontally across the square about twice a minute. On calm days it would continue all the way across the square, while winds would break it up after a few dozen feet.

May 30, 2010 6:07 pm

That is very cool.
On another note I used to have an old RV with a stuffed engine. It had a side exit exhaust (the back half fell off, so I bent it out sideways). It had a very lumpy idle with leaking valve seals. In the right conditions, it would blow perfect blue smoke rings out into the traffic while waiting at the lights, at the rate of about 1 per second. Their novelty value made people less hostile to my pollution belching monster. I did the right thing and put it out of it’s misery.

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