Steam Devil

Artic outbreak vortices, frigid fog funnels or more commonly known as Steam Devils’, these rare and seemingly shy atmospheric events are one of nature’s more subtle beauties. Known for their luminous arrangement and delicate formation these artic phenomenon’s last only moments before disappearing into thin air (literally).

Steam Devils are usually found in the brisk of the early morning, whisking their way across lakes and other large quantities of water. From a distance they could be described as miniature cyclones, twirling their way towards the sky. If you are lucky enough to get close to one you may better described it as a captivating dance of lucrative water droplets.

So what is it that causes these magnificent spirals to dance in the morning light and what exactly do they do? Steam Devils are explained as follows.

Steam Devils are the immediate result of cold winds sweeping across a body of water which is warmer then itself. Water vapor evaporates from the lake, passes through the cold air and rises upwards towards the sky. The water vapor is exposed to the cold density air and automatically condenses forming small droplets of water. These water particles are sucked into a vacuum by force of the strong winds creating a spiral like formation. This vacuum motion is the vertical movement of air called an updraft. An updraft is commonly caused by the localization of cold air and as the air cools it becomes denser and moves towards the ground.

This downward motion of cold air creates a subsidence’. A subsidence is what is created when new or other air moves in to take the place of the lowering cold air. This is also the process that is responsible for causing barometric pressure which can create large clouds and is the cause of thunderstorms and other vapor related phenomenon’s such as fog. In the case of steam devils the subsidence caused by this downward motion is filled by the warmer air rising from the lake or water. With cold air falling and warm air rising around it, the wind begins to swirl in a circular motion creating a rotation similar to that of a cyclone. Add a strong breadth of wind to this process and a steam devil is created.

Steam Devils have been sighted at heights of up to1500 feet and are very similar in process to that of dust devils on a dry day. Steam Devil season usually start in the early autumn when the water is still warm and the cold winds of winter are blowing. The season may last well into the winter.

Overall, Steam Devils are an intricate phenomenon beckoned by the early winter calls of warm water and cool breezes. They are rarely captured on camera due to their unpredictable and instantaneous nature, however, if you are ever quick enough to capture one on film there make for a magnificent photograph.