By Michael Scott
These incredible photos show a rare floating ‘ring twister’ captured for the first time above Hawaii’s volcano-ravaged Big Island.
The unusual vortex phenomenon appeared at the point where lava flow is currently meeting the Pacific Ocean above Kapoho Bay, close to the site of the fiery eruption.
Photographer Joseph Anthony said the unique swirling ring shape – which appears dramatically different from a usual vertical twister – was caused by the interaction between winds and cloud plumes.
While these type of twisters have been spotted before around lava, they are fleeting and Joseph said to snap one which was hovering completely off the ground was extremely uncommon.
Former airline pilot Joseph, from Hong Kong, said: “I have seen several twister and dust devil formations during my time photographing the lava from the ground.
“These look typically like the ones you see in the American Mid West.
“However, to see this ring-shaped one from the air and entirely in the air without it touching the ground was what caught my eye.
“It was a very unusual thing to observe.
“It maintained its general ring-like shape for some time.
“I could physically feel the heat from the lava radiate up through the open window I was shooting from, and that was even at 3,000 feet above
“If it is that hot at 3,000 feet you can imagine how hot it is closer to the ground.
“This heat definitely creates strong localised wind currents and eddies.”
Joseph has spent the past six weeks trying to identify the homes affected by the eruption of Mount Kilauea, which first spewed seven weeks ago.
He had chartered a plane to take aerial shots of the eruption itself and the destruction caused to resident’s houses by the lava flow when he spotted the ring twister.
Joseph said: “I also wanted to capture images for local residents whose homes and land was either destroyed by lava or isolated by it.
“I even stayed at one resident’s house with their permission for nearly three weeks after they evacuated and eventually I too had to evacuate.
“Seeing their homes from the air all these weeks later surrounded by lava gave me a melancholy feeling.
“I am finding that many of the residents who have seen my images either of their homes intact or showing categorically that the lava has consumed them, are grateful for the information either way.
“For them it is a way of getting closure and trying to cope with their losses.”