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Researchers Scientifically Prove the Existence of the Fire Tornado


"...attached to the underside of a thunderstorm."

Fire tornado seen in 2003. (Photo: Sydney Morning Herald)

TheBlaze has been reporting a lot lately about the footage of a "fire tornado" and the filmmaker who captured it in Australia, but as we've been telling you, it wasn't a true tornado in a scientific sense.

Today though scientists have officially documented the first actual fire tornado, also seen in the land down under. The "firenado" caught on film by Chris Tangey with Alice Springs Film and Television in September of this year was anatomically more like a fire whirl. What was observed through scientific measurements by Canberra researchers of the devastating wildfires in 2003 though was an actual flaming tornado.

Fire tornado seen in 2003. (Photo: Sydney Morning Herald)

ABC out of Australia has more from the research lead Rick McRae about the data:

"The one that we looked at showed that as it approached the edge of Canberra, its basal diameter was nearly half a kilometre, and the damage indicates that the horizontal wind speeds around it were in excess of 250 kilometres per hour [about 155 mph]," he said.

"There is also a vertical wind in it at 150 kph [93 mph]."

He says tornadoes are different to the whirls often associated with fires.

"The fire whirl is attached to the hot ground," he said.

"A fire tornado, like a true tornado, is attached to the underside of a thunderstorm."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported McRae explaining further that the technical term for a fire's ability to produce a tornado is called pyro-tornadogenesis. Before this study, it was only speculated that powerful fires could do this.

McRae said gathering this information will give the researchers the ability to recreate its behavior, which could eventually shed light on how emergency responders should handle brushfires and even alter building codes.

The research of this natural phenomenon was published in the journal Natural Hazards.

Watch this report regarding the new scientific finding:

This story has been updated to correct that Tangey filmed his "fire tornado" in Australia not New Zealand. 

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