Jesse Ferrell

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World's First Snow & Fire Tornadoes?

November 21, 2012; 10:54 AM ET

Blog reader Daniel V. pointed out this recently uploaded video from Buryatia, Russia, purporting to show the elusive "snow tornado."

Since cold temperatures typically don't support supercell thunderstorm development, which could spawn a true tornado, I suspect that this is a "cold-air vortex" or an extremely large snow devil (something I have witnessed before, both from ground "tracks" and actual videos, see an example below). Snow devils (in my experience) are generally 5-15 feet high; the event in Russia is on a much larger scale. I suppose it's possible that it was formed in a similar way to waterspouts, which are formed because of temperature differences between the ground and the cloud.

In related news, something I wouldn't have believed if I saw it.'s Jim Andrews did a fascinating blog about how a legitimate EF-3 tornado, produced by a fire, has been confirmed in Australia (as opposed to a "fire whirl" which you can see in the video below).

Fire whirls, often called "fire tornadoes" form like waterspouts, because of temperature differences between the ground and smoke cloud. The 2003 Canberra tornado was apparently anchored to a parent "pyrocumulonimbus" cloud, which essentially was a super cell thunderstorm. This is something we have not seen before. For obvious reasons, there is no video footage of the Canberra tornado, but the footage below is from the same fire and contains remarkable footage driving through it:

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.