Powerful Verticality

Reaching up to the heavens or descending down to the earth — verticality is an important element in nature. Obvious examples of verticality in nature include trees, mountains, and cliffs. As you will see in this week’s post, some of the most powerful forces in the natural world also have a vertical structure to them.

Vertical Water

This is a photo of Strokkur, which is a geyser located in the valley Haukadalur in southern Iceland.

The geysers of Iceland produce so much geothermal energy that the people who live there use this energy “to heat greenhouses and to grow food that otherwise could not have been cultivated in Iceland’s inhospitable climate.” Wikipedia also notes that “steam and hot water from the geysers ha[ve] also been used for heating homes since 1943 in Iceland.”


“Strokkur” — Wikipedia
 “Geyser” — Wikipedia


By Andreas Tille [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

English: Eruption of Strokkur close by.
Date: 23 July 1996
Source: Own work – see http://fam-tille.de/sparetime.html
Image with Information in English

The powerful energy of the ocean arises in crashing vertical waves like the ones in the following two photographs.

Holyhead breakwater – geograph.org.uk – 108854.jpg

By Nigel Williams [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

Wave breaking on Holyhead breakwater – this is the section before the first bend
Date: 5 October 2004
Source: From geograph.org.uk

Boka Pistol in het Nationaal Park Shete Boka.jpg

By Lswarte (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

Boka Pistol is a small bay in Shete Boka national park, Curaçao. Water of the Caribbean sea is compressed into the bay and pushed out with gun shot like sounds, hence the name Boka Pistol.

Date: 16 November 2006


According to NOAA, an F5 tornado is the most destructive type of tornado on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale. With wind speeds between 261-318 miles per hour, an F5 tornado causes “incredible damage,” including the following:

  •  strong frame houses leveled off foundations and swept away
  • automobile-sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 meters (109 yds.)
  • trees debarked.

Source: “Fujita Tornado Damage Scale” — NOAA Storm Prediction Center website

F5 tornado Elie Manitoba 2007.jpg

By Justin1569 at en.wikipedia [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

Category F5 tornado (upgraded from initial estimate of F4) viewed from the southeast as it approached Elie, Manitoba on Friday, June 22nd, 2007.

Date: 22 June 2007

Vertical Lightning Strikes

According to NOAA, lightning “can have 100 million to 1 billion volts, and it “contains billions of watts.” In addition, the “energy from lightning heats the air anywhere from 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit to up to 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit” (9982.2°C to 33316°C).

Source: “Severe Weather 101” — NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory website


By R. Hadian, U.S. Geological Survey (image from NOAA website) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

United States Geological Survey photo of 1982 eruption of Galungung (with lightning strikes). Cropped. This stratovolcano with a lava dome is located in western Java. Its first eruption in 1822 produced a 22-km-long mudflow that killed 4,000 people. The second eruption in 1894 caused extensive property loss. The slide depicts a spectacular view of lightning strikes during a third eruption on December 3, 1982, which resulted in 68 deaths. A fourth eruption occurred in 1984. Source Caption: Galunggung, Indonesia;07.25 S 108.05 E;2,168 m elevation

Date: 3 December 1982

Source: image from NOAA website

Scottobear – 051231 sun (by-sa).jpg

By Scotto Bear from North Beach, MD, USA (051231_sun) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:


Date: 31 December 2005, 09:30

Volcanic Mushroom Clouds

Volcanic eruptions can push huge clouds of ash and various gases such as sulfur dioxide, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide up to the Earth’s surface. Some of these clouds can be several or many miles or kilometers high depending on how explosive the eruption is.

“Volcanic ash” — Wikipedia
Types of Volcanic Eruptions” — Wikipedia

Erupcion guagua rgb.jpg

By Paginario (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

(Editor’s note: No English description available)
Español: erupcion del volcan guagua pichincha el año 2000

Date: 2000


By Janke at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

Picture of Mount Redoubt eruption

Ascending eruption cloud from Redoubt Volcano as viewed to the west from the en:Kenai Peninsula. The mushroom-shaped plume rose from avalanches of hot debris (en:pyroclastic flows) that cascaded down the north flank of the volcano. A smaller, white steam plume rises from the summit crater.

Photograph by R. Clucas, April 21, 1990.

Source: http://pubs.usgs.gov/dds/dds-39/album.html and http://gallery.usgs.gov/photos/03_29_2013_otk7Nay4LH_03_29_2013_5#.UrvS2vfTnrc

en:Category:Mount Redoubt (Alaska) en:Category:Pyroclastic flows en:Category:Eruption columns
en:Category:Mushroom clouds

Date: 2008-12-03 (original upload date)

Source: Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons using CommonsHelper.

Author: Original uploader was Janke at en.wikipedia

Permission (Reusing this file): PD-USGOV-INTERIOR-USGS.

Sarychev Volcano edit.jpg

By Sarychev_Volcano.jpg: NASAderivative work: Avenue (Sarychev_Volcano.jpg) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Description:

A picture of Russia’s Sarychev Volcano, on Matua Island in the Kuril Islands, erupting on 12 June 2009, as seen from the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS orbits the Earth at a height of between 347 and 360 km.

Original description by NASA:
“A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev volcano (Russia’s Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain and is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island.

“Prior to June 12, the last explosive eruption had occurred in 1989 with eruptions in 1986, 1976, 1954 and 1946 also producing lava flows. Commercial airline flights were diverted from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake. This detailed photograph is exciting to volcanologists because it captures several phenomena that occur during the earliest stages of an explosive volcanic eruption.

“The main column is one of a series of plumes that rose above Matua Island (48.1 degrees north latitude and 153.2 degrees east longitude) on June 12. The plume appears to be a combination of brown ash and white steam. The vigorously rising plume gives the steam a bubble-like appearance; the surrounding atmosphere has been shoved up by the shock wave of the eruption. The smooth white cloud on top may be water condensation that resulted from rapid rising and cooling of the air mass above the ash column, and is probably a transient feature (the eruption plume is starting to punch through). The structure also indicates that little to no shearing winds were present at the time to disrupt the plume. By contrast, a cloud of denser, gray ash — most probably a pyroclastic flow — appears to be hugging the ground, descending from the volcano summit. The rising eruption plume casts a shadow to the northwest of the island (bottom center). Brown ash at a lower altitude of the atmosphere spreads out above the ground at upper right. Low-level stratus clouds approach Matua Island from the east, wrapping around the lower slopes of the volcano. Only about 1.5 kilometers of the coastline of Matua Island (upper center) can be seen beneath the clouds and ash.”

Date: 2010-11-02 13:43 (UTC)

Source: Sarychev_Volcano.jpg

Author: Sarychev_Volcano.jpg: NASA
derivative work: Avenue (talk)

Additional Information: This is a retouched picture, which means that it has been digitally altered from its original version. Modifications: Rotated and cropped; empty corners filled in using smart replace filter; all darkened. The original can be viewed here: Sarychev_Volcano.jpg. Modifications made by Avenue.


3 thoughts on “Powerful Verticality

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