While it’s not the title of the upcoming Game of Thrones book, fire tornadoes and fire rainbows are fantastic to behold. And, yes, they do also sound more like questionable D&D spells than the striking physical phenomena that they are. In August 2015, one of these special rainbows appeared at a beach, and Idaho saw a spectacular fire tornado (or “fire whirl”).
The fire rainbow is a rare type of rainbow, requiring ice crystals in cirrus clouds high in the atmosphere. This one was spotted in South Carolina during August of this year.
“To produce the rainbow colors, the sun’s rays must enter the ice crystals at a precise angle to give the prism effect of the color spectrum,” Lock said, adding the sun must be at an altitude of at least 58 degrees above the horizon. “Again, it has to do with getting the precise angle.”
Lock says we often see the same kind of thing occur with colorful sunsets in which high-level cirrus clouds produce many colors because of the low angle of the run reflecting and diffracting light, producing brilliant reds, oranges and purples.
A fire tornado looks pretty much like it sounds. Surprisingly, they’re not terribly rare, but they are short lived and therefore not captured on camera very often.
Fire tornadoes are most closely related to dust devils and are distinct from the larger, more powerful tornadoes that develop from the large circulation patterns that can form in supercell thunderstorms.Dust devils form when hot air near the surface rises quickly through a cooler pocket of low-pressure air. As the air rises, it stretches vertically, which drives rotation
Other hot air rushes in to the bottom of the vortex, and then rises up, intensifying the spinning. In the case of a fire whirl, the fire is what heats the air along the ground in the first place.
The following video captures the recent Idaho fire twister in all its infernal, spinning, destructive glory.
Idaho Fire Tornado in August