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Convection Schmonvection
aka: Convection Smonvection

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"I packed my sunscreen. I'm fine."

"Fire — as long as you're not directly touching it, it can't hurt you."
Mike Nelson, The Last Airbender RiffTrax

Lava, that primal force of creation and destruction, is really, really hot—between 700°C and 1,200°C hot (or between 1,300°F and 2,200°F).

As awesome as lava is, most TV writers and video game developers forget that "really hot" part. The hero is making his way through the Lethal Lava Land, but wait! There are floating rocks, he can make it across to the other side! Except in the real world, the heat coming off of the lava would have cooked him already.note  Put your hand in front of an open flame and you have an idea of how hot that room, cave, or Eternal Engine should be. While it's possible for the outer layer of lava to cool, forming an insulating shell where the inner layer still flows but people can get close to it relatively safely as long as they don't touch it, this is never seen in fiction where red-hot lava flows as free and exposed as river water.


Convection, the process by which a liquid or gas (like air) forms currents that very quickly spread heat from a hot thing to its environment, does not exist in TV land. Convection, schmonvection—as long as you don't touch the lava, you're okay. Note that this trope covers heat radiation as well (but Radiation Schmadiation would sound like I Love Nuclear Power...), and seeing as large explosions create shockwaves as well as fireballs, this also covers Overpressure Schmoverpressure. TV also ignores the other hazards of volcanoes and lava flows, such as toxic gases and blinding, choking ash.

Although lava is the primary offender, this also applies to any time convection is ignored for the sake of Rule of Cool, such as when a character is standing above or near a large fire, hot water, or any other extreme heat source. If you don't touch the raging inferno, boiling lake, or white-hot walls, you'll be fine. This is despite the fact that just about every kid has probably placed their hand over a burning candle at some point and noticed that it gets painfully hot well before actually touching the flame, or stood near something producing steam (a hot bath, boiling kettle, cup of tea/coffee...) and felt the heat coming off it without needing to feel it by hand. Rule of Perception also has a hand in this trope; viewers can't feel any heat, so obviously there isn't any. This is especially applicable to Video Games, where having to dodge both lava and the invisible heat it gives off would be rather irritating.


Lava is also rarely found just calmly lying around — when it slows, it has time to cool and harden. If it's been liquid for any appreciable length of time, it will probably look like this. This is a subtrope of Artistic License – Physics.

Occasionally you may see the visual effects of convection in the form of distortion of heated air—which will still be safe to be near, as long as you don't touch the magma itself.

For some reason, the reverse is demonstrated a bit more realistically; characters will feel cold in a cave or other area that's in perpetual winter, or frigid enough to have ice form on the walls. However, as long as they bundle up, the most they'll ever get is a longing for some hot cocoa and a warm fireplace — and, much like how standing close to lava rarely leads to overheating, Frigid Water Is Harmless. This, too, can be attributed to Rule of Cool.

See also: Lava Pit, Lava is Boiling Kool-Aid, Battle Amongst the Flames, Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud, Hailfire Peaks, Hollywood Fire, Thermal Dissonance, Harmless Electrocution, Lava Surfing, A Molten Date with Death, and Harmless Freezing. Toasted Buns and Lava Adds Awesome are related tropes.

A complete but no more accurate inversion is "Space Is Cold", where there is no convection, but TV acts as though there is.


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    Comic Books 
  • During the events of Absolute Carnage, Sleeper slobbers napalm all over Hybrid for Hawkeye to ignite. Both Dylan and Sleeper dramatically watch the symbiote burst into flames from a few feet away until there's nothing left but a hole in the ground. In truth, both of them should have been burnt to a crisp, as napalm burns at a temperature of 2,760 degrees Celsius or 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, about half as hot as the surface of the sun.
  • Crystar The Crystal Warrior. For the purpose of having a civil war, the loyalists to the old king and his heir Crystar are turned into living crystal men, and the rebel faction are turned into living lava men. The obvious solution of just spraying water on the bad guys didn't come up in this comic's brief run.
  • The Fantastic Four's Human Torch can safely carry people and objects by extinguishing the flame on his hands. Being right next to the rest of his flaming body is apparently not a problem (though, admittedly, it would be much hotter above the Torch than next to him). It has been said that The Human Torch can control who/what he burns with his flame. It's not always followed, though.
  • Played as straight as possible in a Flash Gordon parody from Wally Wood's Sally Forth. The heroine Sally uses a Jetpack to fly around while completely naked, but doesn't suffer any injuries from doing so.
  • At one point, Magneto had a base in the Antarctic surrounded by lava, the only thing keeping the lava from destroying the base was a force field. Yet, when the device controlling the force field is destroyed the lava only slowly leaks in before it finally bursts in. Magneto survives by using his powers to create a magnetic sphere to keep it away from him, whereas Jean creates a telekinetic bubble for herself and the rest of the team, and it somehow keeps the heat out.
  • In one issue of Paperinik New Adventures the hero was able to fly with no problems few centimetres above the lava on his Extransformer.
  • In a Punisher / Captain America crossover, a mook tries to invoke this (and is kind enough to explain it as he does so): if firing a bazooka at the shield causes it to bounce off, shooting it so it explodes short of the shield will let the heat (which will go around) do the work.
  • Averted in The Punisher Presents Barracuda; when President Luna falls from a helicopter into a volcano, we see him catch on fire in mid-air before he hits the lava.
  • In Secret Wars, when the Torch uses his "nova flame" to take out Ultron, it burns so hot that it melts clean through the surrounding solid-metal walls and floor. When the smoke clears, Captain America, who was standing a few yards away and protected only by huddling his upper body behind his shield, is perfectly unharmed. Apparently, his body's melting point is a lot higher than that of whatever alien metal was used to build Doombase. His shield absorbs kinetic energy, not heat.
  • In Supergirl Volume 2 Issue #1, the titular heroine shields two people from a shower of molten steel. Her indestructible cape blocks the cascade of metal but it should not protect them from the intense heat.
  • In an issue of Superman story Kryptonite Nevermore Superman flies over a volcano. It makes sense that he is not affected because he is invulnerable. However in Issue #238 a group of criminals use a magma-hose. The nozzle is specially tempered but they are still too near from the stuff.
  • Played straight for the most part in Swordquest: Fireworld. The characters run around a Lethal Lava Land with gouts of flame everywhere, but suffer no ill effects aside from profuse sweating and a constant thirst.
  • It is common for Marvel characters who have undergone cryonic suspension to need zero time to thaw. In Uncanny X-Men (2016), several mutants who wanted to wait out the terrigen cloud in cryonic suspension are alive again the moment the liquid nitrogen is drained from their caskets. The same goes for the Winter Soldier whenever he was released from suspension by the Soviets.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Handwaved in one of the Wonder Girl Impossible Tales. Diana jumps into a bubbling volcano to retrieve her lasso, and while doing so thinks to herself how handy it is all Amazons "train" to be more heat resilient since a regular person would die doing what she's doing.
  • Subverted in one issue of X-Force, where Wolverine's female clone, X-23 was above a vat of molten metal, and falls. The next time we see her, all her hair has burned away and she has third-degree burns all over. Her shirt was burned away too, making Elixir give her his. Turned out she bounced off the side of the vat to the ground, but the brief exposure to the heat was still enough to harm her. She has a Healing Factor so she got better.
  • Lampshaded in an issue of DC's Young Justice:
    Empress: Mon, this place makes no sense. In an active lava field, the ground is so hot, you can get incinerated just by standing on it. How come we still got feet even?
    Robin: You're complaining because it wasn't more difficult?!? Are you nuts?!

    Fan Works 
  • Averted in A Teacher's Glory. Sasuke extinguishes the fire on his sword after a fight, re-sheathes it, and promptly sets his sheath on fire. Later, he realizes that weeks of super-heating his sword in combat has ruined its temper.
  • Mounty Oum's CG Fan Film series Dead Fantasy probably takes this to its most extreme. During part II, the fighters end up on a stone raft floating down a river of lava. The raft is less than a foot thick, but does not melt or overheat. Similarly the girls suffer no problems from heat and toxic gas. Sounds pretty standard so far. Then Tifa gets knocked off of the raft. Yuna shoots Tifa to knock her onto the rocky ledge rather than into the lava, implies that falling in the lava would be a bad thing. But Tifa then proceeds to RUN ACROSS the lava, suffering no more than ignited shoes, used to deliver a fiery dropkick.
  • Averted multiple times in The Bridge
    • Godzilla Junior fires a wide plasma beam into a flock of gyaos, flash frying many of the smaller ones without even scoring a direct hit.
    • In the The Shimmerverse crossover, The Bridge: A Shimmer in the Dark, Sunset Shimmer's fire magic causes the neighboring leaf litter and grass to catch fire or wilt and sizzle.
    • In a What Could Have Been example, Blade Dancer's brief fight with Godzilla Junior would have featured her sword melting due to Junior's heat. The author changed his mind upon realizing it wouldn't be realistic for that to happen without Blade Dancer's body igniting as well.
  • Averted in Chrysalis Visits The Hague when Chrysalis recounts to her lawyer her (supposed) experience of Princess Celestia trying to execute her and her army by shoving them into a live volcano.
    "The trouble with your condition is that, if you gazed into a volcano, you wouldn’t have the milky flesh that you do now. If you were up close enough to see the single bubbles boiling up in the lava, you would also be close enough for it to burn the flesh straight off your bones."
  • Subverted in Incarnation of Legends. Bell is surprised when he feels heat coming from Solaris while she's casting her Inferno magic despite being a fair distance away. She's also left sweaty and exhausted after using it.
  • Played absolutely straight, with deliberate intent, in Your Alicorn Is In Another Castle. Twilight's first investigation of the platforms floating over the lava in Bowser's kingdom discovers that they don't conduct the heat into her hooves. In fact, the lava doesn't conduct any heat into the air: anything drifting up gets about a hoof-height above the molten rock and stops right there. She quickly concludes that the local physics are a little weird.
  • Downplayed in Half Past Adventure with Huntress Wizard's occasional pyrotechnics. There are a few occasions where she starts some noteworthy fires that should probably have been more painful for herself and others nearby, including the time Robin was trapped within one.
  • Averted in The War of the Masters.
    • Create Your Own Fate: Eleya witnesses a Bajoran surface-to-orbit phaser cannon firing on a Fek'Ihri ship. Nearby vegetation ignites from the heat of the blast.
    • The Burning Of Beruns World: A similar weapon has an artificial lake nearby for cooling. Within a few shots, the lake is boiling.

    Film — Animation 
  • The destruction of the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin, in which Aladdin isn't cooked alive while being pursued by a malevolent stream of magma and using Carpet to escape.
  • In Brother Bear, Koda and Kenai traverse a field of heat (supposed to be lava...) This is impressive for two reasons: Kenai gets continuously hit by jets of steam (a la Princess Bride and the Swamp) and the nearby areas are covered in snow.
  • Frozen (2013): When the heroes go to visit Kristoff's troll family, Olaf does not melt, or even thaw a little, despite walking between what appear to be geysers of steam, and this is well before he gets his personal flurry. The steam suggests that the area where the trolls live has geothermal features, which are the reason why it stays clear of snow while the rest of Arendelle is snowed in.
  • Taken to ridiculous extremes in Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, where Sid manages to raft along a river of lava then have some of it splash on him without getting at all hurt.
  • The Incredibles has plenty of fun with lava. Mr. Incredible gets awfully close to it during his first fight with the Omnidroid, while the Omnidroid actually falls into the lava, and emerges unscathed, even though it's so hot it's glowing orange. Maybe heat resistance is another of Mr. Incredible's superpowers (he seemed just fine in the scene in the burning apartment); maybe the Omnidroid was made from heat-resistant Unobtainium. Either way, there's no excuse for non-superpowered Syndrome (and presumably Mirage) not being cooked alive by the secret passageway with walls made of flowing lava.
  • In Inside Out, during their trip through Imagination Land, Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong cross a stream of (imaginary) lava by using floating pieces of furniture as stepping stones.
  • The climax of The Jungle Book 2 apparently takes place inside an old temple that's for some reason built inside a volcanic pit. Mowgli, Shanti, Ranjan, Baloo, and Bagheera actually lure Shere Khan inside the temple, where they attempt to distract the tiger by hitting gongs, but when that doesn't work, they simply throw Khan into a pool of lava. Khan survives the fall, thanks to a rocky ledge overhanging the lava, but is immediately trapped inside a giant stone tiger head that also fell inside the pool of lava.
  • The Land Before Time has a scene like this, featuring floating rock islands that can be jumped on by dinosaurs.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, we have a scene where Tiana and Naveen as frogs are sitting on the edge of a bathtub. The bathtub is sitting in a fire and being used to cook gumbo, which is boiling hot. But, hey, an inch away sitting on bare metal, what's the problem? Though this can perhaps be justified by the fact the bathtub also doubles as a magic cauldron.
  • In The Road to El Dorado, the main characters are chased across a cracking layer of volcanic rock by a large stone jaguar. Lava comes within inches of splattering on them. But it must not be very hot itself, because the stone critter pops right back out.
  • The title character of Shrek and his donkey sidekick walk across a rickety bridge over a boiling lake of lava to reach a castle on the other side, without seeming to feel any heat. And a castle built on a pier of rock rising out the lava, which wouldn't even be stable in such conditions, as lava can erode, corrode, and often outright melt such piers.
  • The Swan Princess 2 is a fairly big example here: the villain's evil lair is inside a volcano, with a moat full of lava surrounding the central spire that serves as his home. There is a very rickety rope and wood pulley system used to cross-one that should have been incinerated in moments of exposure. Close to the end, while the volcano is exploding (as they are want to do) the heroes are barely inches away from the bubbling, wildly frothing lava-some of it splashing within millimeters of them-and come out unscathed, despite the fact that there should have at the very least been a few singed feathers.
  • Toy Story 3: The incinerator is obviously really hot but the plastic toys remain unmelted. Not that we're complaining though, because considering how terrifying the scene was already, this is for the best.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In After Earth, Kitai is able to stand outside in an ash cloud without a breathing apparatus. In Real Life, volcanic ash particles turn to cement when they are inhaled, causing rapid suffocation. Furthermore, Kitai takes refuge in a cave with a ledge overlooking an active lava flow and is no worse for wear, and lights a campfire to make it cozier. Later on, after nearly freezing to death in the wilderness, he runs and jumps up the side of an active volcano, coming within feet of large cracks that glow with the heat of the lava.
  • Subverted in The Chronicles of Riddick, where there is a planet whose entire landscape gets recreated daily by a cloud of super-hot air and accompanying lava roaming over it, caused by being so close to the local star. Riddick and a few others make for escape but nearly get burned to a crisp by the sunlight. Later a character walks into the cloud and gets burned to pieces (literally). Riddick only survives in a hangar which is obviously made to survive the phenomenon, including cooling.
  • The Core averts this. One crewman has to step outside safe area of the ship, never touches lava, and still burns to death. He is wearing a protective suit — which is the only reason he can even open the door without immediately bursting into flame while simultaneously imploding from the intense heat and pressure. Previously they had to use liquid nitrogen, the ship's coolant, to exit the ship without bursting into flames. The crew is notably sweating through the rest of the movie, even while in the ship.
  • In Danger: Diabolik, most famous for being the subject of the final episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the eponymous character dons a protective suit near the end to keep him safe as he melts down a large bar of gold. He claims that in such a suit he could swim through the sun (though he doesn't say so, he presumably means he could survive the ordeal as well). While this itself is fairly stupid, one has to take notice that there is a noticeable gap between the bottom of the visor and his helmet, as if he didn't shut it properly. Although this does not appear to present a problem when he is later sprayed with molten gold and survives.
  • Dante's Peak has a scene where a truck drives over lava and the tires only melt a little. In another scene lava starts pouring into a wooden house, that miraculously hadn't caught fire already, which surprised instead of incinerated all of the characters there. Also, when they run outside, the lava has already swept through the surrounding small pine trees, most of which were still standing. Other than that, though, it was a fairly well-researched movie, and goes into several other deadly effects of volcanic eruption beyond the lava.
  • Disaster Movie The Day After Tomorrow, among other examples of terrible, terrible science featured a scene where a main character runs down a hallway where the temperature is dropping so fast that moisture in the air turns to ice on the walls in less than a second. Despite the fact that he's only wearing normal clothes and a coat, our hero seems to be in no danger as long as he doesn't let the rapidly forming ice catch him — the air a few feet in front of the death zone is only somewhat chilly (and moving slower than a running human). He also manages to hold back the cold entirely by entering a room with a fireplace and shutting the door, but that's a different issue.
  • A similar event in the Sylvester Stallone movie Demolition Man in which Phoenix holds a blowtorch mere inches away from a floor which is covered in diesel. Never mind that the fumes coming from it would have surely caught fire instantly, as long as the naked flame doesn't touch the liquid itself it's fine.
  • In Dragonball Evolution, Goku forms a series of stepping stones across a pit of lava, with corpses. The other characters walk around the edge of the area to meet back up with him. While Goku himself is extremely superhuman, and so perhaps a justified case, the corpses are less so.
  • Dragonslayer: Galen uses a dragon-scale shield to protect himself from the dragon's flames, despite them going past it and around him, never mind the heat this should generate as well.
  • Godzilla:
    • The ending to Godzilla 1985 has the monster being trapped in a volcano. Not surprisingly, he's not affected at all by either the lava itself or any of the intense heat. He is Godzilla.
    • Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth had Godzilla and Larva Battra open a fissure on the ocean floor during their fight and plunge into the Earth's mantle for a good part of the film. Godzilla emerges from a volcano unscathed and angry, Battra is also fine but how he got out isn't shown.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: In a scene that was not in the book, Thorin and the Company attempt to kill Smaug by flooding him with liquid gold from a Dwarven furnace (it doesn't work). There is a chase sequence where Thorin lays down on a metal wheelbarrow to surf the river of molten gold that erupts from the furnace, with no ill-effects whatsoever. Never mind that he should have been fried almost instantly — laying metal down over a source of heat is how skillets and frying pans work. Plus, there are several times when the heroes take cover in some way from Smaug's fire breath, and are completely OK being mere feet (or even inches) away from a massive inferno. They must have Improved Evasion.note 
  • House of Wax (2005) has the main characters escaping from the house of wax as it melts and burns, not bothered by the heat at all.
  • Downplayed in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom:
    • Willie is lowered in an iron cage towards lava. She is lowered so close to the molten rock that she should be bursting into flames.
    • The poor sap who gets lowered before her does burst into flames.
    • The novelization goes into full detail of how excruciating the experience is for poor Willie. At one point it even explicitly says that her eyelashes singe and her dress starts smoking, and she eventually passes out from the high temperature.
  • In Iron Man 2, Whiplash manages to get Iron Man tangled in whips hot enough to melt through his armor. Even after having several entire sections of the armor torn away, several more rendered molten inches away from his skin, and then wrapping himself in said whips to get close and end the fight, Tony doesn't have any burns on his body at all. It's slightly justified because Tony was wearing a fire-resistant racing suit underneath his armor.
  • At one point in Jack the Giant Slayer Elmont is rolled in raw dough and placed in an oven to be cooked as an hors d'oeuvre. When he frees himself a few minutes later, he's not even sweating, despite the fact that the dough he was inside visibly cooked while he was freeing himself.
  • James Bond:
    • The climactic battle in Dr. No takes place in a room being flooded with coolant from a nuclear reactor. Dr. No survives long enough in the superheated coolant to desperately claw for a way out even when submerged above his head, and Bond is unharmed despite being mere inches away from the coolant.
    • Diamonds Are Forever has two assassins putting Bond inside a coffin about to be cremated. It starts, but a crook cancels the thing and opens the coffin nonchalantly... despite the fact that it had been inside a lit crematory and thus would be as scalding as a cake just out of the oven.
    • Quantum of Solace has a climactic fight in a hotel that's burning down. None of the combatants have any trouble breathing, talking, seeing, or fighting. Bond even runs through flames to rescue a woman having a PTSD episode, and then the two of them run through a burning, collapsing wall. No one gets burned.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth. The explorers are carried up the tube of a volcano by lava on an asbestos dish in the 1959 movie and a dinosaur skull in the 2008 one — which in real life would get them cooked alive.
  • Taken to patently absurd degrees in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. At one point, Owen's body is mere inches away from lava and is somehow completely fine. It's even worse with the baryonyx that attacks Claire and Franklin, who takes a splash of lava to the face, and only flinches.
  • Used in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, in which two barefoot hobbits were able to walk on the rock of an erupting volcano, only a few feet from the flowing lava on either side. However, the soles on Hobbit feet are about as leathery as shoes (and in theory the rock they were walking on hadn't had time to heat up yet—rock's a pretty bad conductor). When Gollum and the One Ring fall into the Crack of Doom, neither show any signs of burning even when Gollum gets completely submerged.
  • Pacific Rim: On Striker Eureka's blueprints there's mention of the "Sting-Blades" channeling thermal energy, but it's unknown if it's this or outright case of Kill It with Fire. This is averted in the Final Battle, where Gipsy Danger shoves a Kaiju's head into a volcanic vent and roasts its face in an attempt to kill it.
  • In Robin Hood (2018), Robin and Gisborne outrun a cascade of molten iron from an overturned crucible, despite the fact the heat should have barbecued them where they stood.
  • The Sharknado films have been well-known for giving the middle finger to the laws of physics. A rather amusing example is in Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, when one of the sharknados becomes a Nukenado. The heroes go to fight it and, naturally, aren't cooked from the inside.
  • Subverted realistically in the Silent Hill movie — a character dies from heat exposure while hanging above an open flame, and is later shown as a burned corpse, even though she is never actually lowered into the flame itself.
  • Averted in Sky High (2005). While the main group is escaping through a ventilation duct, they ask Warren if he can use his fire powers to light the way, to which he responds “only if you want to be barbecued”.
  • In the finale of Species, when the tar-filled pit catches fire, the temperature in the cavern should have been unbearable. However, the characters don't respond to this fact.
  • In Spider-Man 2, Doctor Octopus builds what is effectively a miniature sun. Characters standing a few feet away show no signs of feeling the heat. Later he sinks it, and there's not even a whiff of steam.
  • In Spider-Man: Far From Home, despite Molten Man growing large enough to fill up the entirety of Prague Square, no one is visibly burned, not even Mysterio when he flies straight into it. Because it's not actually there - "Molten Man" is simply an illusion designed to camouflage drone attacks so Mysterio can make himself look like a hero.
  • In the opening scene of Star Trek Into Darkness, Spock survives for several minutes in the crater of an erupting volcano. Possibly justified by the high-tech environment suit he's wearing, though the fact that his equipment survives unscathed is a bit harder to swallow. Unlike other films, this one shows the volcanic ash severely damaging the shuttle to the point that Sulu and Uhura end up ditching the craft. Scotty also warns Kirk about what would happen if the Enterprise were directly above the volcano at the moment of eruption.
  • Star Wars:
    • In order for a plasma blade to cut through metal with no resistance, it would have to be a few million degrees, which would be enough to burn someone to ash within seconds of activating a lightsaber. Though supplemental materials mention that a lightsaber's plasma is held in place by a force field that prevents anyone or anything from being burned by the blade unless direct contact is made (and if a lightsaber blade does emanate heat, that means it was improperly constructed).
    • In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn tries to melt through a blast door with his lightsaber; he's standing next to it at the time, with his hands inches away from molten metal, but he doesn't even get singed. Force-based protection from heat seems as reasonable an explanation as any.
    • In Revenge of the Sith the final battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin takes place on a molten planet. We see that the station they are fighting on requires special shielding from the molten lava surrounding it, and when this shield is disabled the station rapidly begins to disintegrate, averting this trope. Also at the end of the fight, Anakin bursts into flames on the shore of a lava river despite never touching the actual lava. On the other, there are multiple instances throughout the fight when Obi-Wan and Anakin fight above or near unshielded lava with no ill effects, leaving this a Zig-Zagging Trope. The general explanation is that they used the Force to shield themselves, and that Anakin losing all his limbs kept him from using the force properly. Also worth noting is that Obi-Wan's outfit is visibly singed in a few places, and by the end of the fight stained with sweat and soot. Lucas has also stated the symbolic setting of fire and lava in the final battle trumped realism.
  • The infamous Syfy Channel Original Movie Raptor Island features a scene where the female lead runs across a tree over a river of lava. It's also a good thing air doesn't conduct heat — at least in that movie, apparently, since that's the meaning of "convection". (Also there's heat-radiation.)
  • Averted in Terminator 2: Judgment Day during the final chase scene when Sarah Connor declares that it is "too hot" to approach the open pit of molten metal. Also when Ah-nuld is lowered into the steel, his boot and pants catch fire a full foot above the metal.
  • Volcano:
    • After blocking a lava flow with concrete barriers, the fire fighters lean over the top of them, laughing.
    • In the same scene, the protagonists have to rescue an unconscious fireman stuck at the far end of a fire truck's ladder. Apparently convection from a precarious position is enough to make metal melt and bend, and clothes ignite, but if you make it to solid ground you're safe even if you're closer to the lava now than you were while up on the ladder. To be fair, being above the lava would put both ladder and fireman directly in the rising column of heat, while being next to the lava wouldn't.
    • The scene in the subway is an utter howler; a man is able to move around in a train car so hot it's actually melting all around him, making it so hot all the "survivors" he's rescuing would have been incinerated. Then came the part where the brave man heroically jumps into lava, stupidly remaining conscious and throwing another grown adult clear of it, and then stupidly melting. And it was stupid, did we mention that?
    • Also, the scene with the barriers ends with aerial drops of water onto the pool of lava to solidify it. The resulting clouds of superheated steam which engulfed everyone nearby should have scalded them all to death, but they safely (if stupidly) emerged unhurt.
  • When Time Ran Out... is about a volcanic eruption that imperils vacationers in a Hawaiian resort. The characters often come implausibly close to the lava, including a daring lava-pit rescue by Burgess Meredith (as a retired high-wire artist).
  • Wrath of the Titans features Cronos, a mountain-sized man made of molten rock that apparently does not give off any heat. Notably, in the climax Perseus flies Pegasus down his throat and gets slightly singed for his trouble.

  • Averted in Animorphs #34 when the team visit the Hork-Bajir homeworld and cross over a seriously deep chasm — as in, so deep they can see the core of the planet.
    Ax: <You do not have to worry about the lava, Cassie>
    Cassie: "Thanks, Ax."
    Ax: <If you fell, I believe you would be incinerated before you hit the actual magma.>
    Cassie: (narrating) Sometimes I think hanging around Marco so much has given Ax a totally twisted sense of humour. Very un-Andalite.
    • The same joke is used again (or before?) in the ''Hork Bajir Chronicles".
    • Visser Three has a morph that can fire lethal amounts of heat (enough to boil a person alive) and even being near it is described as standing in front of an open oven.
  • In the first The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the giant Foamfollower carries Covenant across Hotash Slay, a river of lava. Foamfollower, being a giant, is immune to fire and so can withstand the heat of the lava; Covenant, however, realistically would have been fried before Foamfollower even stepped into the river. There is some Hand Waving of this — it is implied that Covenant's ring is involved.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novels, explicitly discussed and averted. Once Cain claims that a plasmabolt missed him by a millimeter. In a footnote, Amberley points out that he would have suffered flash burns that close, so he was wrong about the distance.
  • Averted in one short story by Arthur C. Clarke in which a crew of astronauts on Venus encounter an amorphous creature that appeared to try to encircle them as if to eat them. Turned out it was simply trying to avoid excess heat generated by their spacesuits' life support systems, which wasn't immediately apparent to the crew.
  • Explicitly averted in the third book of The Death Gate Cycle, Fire Sea, which takes place in a subterranean world where cities are built on the shores of great lava currents to stay warm within the dying planet. It's explicitly noted that only the demigod-like Sartans and Patryns are capable of surviving in such conditions, while humans and other races with lesser magical aptitude died out almost immediately after their arrival. And the world takes its toll even on the Sartans, greatly weakening them as they focus most of their magic on simple survival.
  • Averted in The Dresden Files, where all but the most controlled fire magic heats the air and sets nearby objects ablaze. In Blood Rites, a vampire used a flamethrower on Harry in a tight corridor, and he used his shield bracelet to deflect the napalm — but the bracelet only stopped the napalm jelly, while the heat from the jelly proceeded to roast his hand to the point that even with his wizardly Healing Factor, it's still somewhat limited in use and covered in scar tissue for the rest of the series so far. Harry mentions on several occasions that summoning and directing fire requires a lot of force in order to make sure everything that's not the target doesn't get incinerated, and once that force is released, you'll still have to deal with the convection issue. He has even redone his bracelet's shield magic to block this.
    • In A Day Off, Harry even lampshades his trope during a D&D campaign by complaining that the party wizard's perfect 20' fireballs are unrealistic.
    • Played straight in White Night, where Harry sends continuous waves of molten rock at some attacking monsters, and none of his allies that are standing nearby seem bothered by the heat.
  • Somewhat justified in Emily The Strange The Lost Days. While the liquid black rock was stated to feel as if it was burning Earwig, it does so in a nice way and apparently isn't hot per se. Basically, it's magic lava.
  • In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, Roger is not burned by nearby lava. Justified because it's his imaginary world, and he hadn't thought of whether it would kill.
  • In the Jedi Academy Trilogy, Luke once walks through lava to impress a prospective student. He's stated to be using the Force to direct the heat away from his feet, so it's not much of a stretch to assume that he includes the rest of his body.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth. The explorers are carried up the tube of a volcano by lava on their raft of fossilized wood (an asbestos dish in the 1959 movie, a dinosaur skull in the 2008 one) which in real life would get them cooked alive (Axel notes the temperature rises to 70°C). Some editions avoid this by having them be carried up by water (which was the case for the first part of the ascent), the implication being that lava below is causing a geyser-effect to blow them out of the volcano.
  • Initially averted in Queen of Demons when Garric notes the heat emanating from a nearby lava moat; later played straight both when he crosses a bridge over the moat and in an Outrun the Fireball scene involving a tunnel and an erupting volcano.
  • The climactic scene in The Lord of the Rings where Frodo and Sam, having destroyed the Ring and precipitated the eruption of Mount Doom, make it, utterly exhausted, to one of the last firm rocky outcrops which is surrounded by a river of molten lava. The book skirts over the issue of the sheer heat of their surroundings might in itself be fatal to them, ignores the possibility the air they are breathing might not only be superheated but poisonous, and allows a large bird to swoop down to pick them up without instantly becoming Mordor Fried Eagle or at the very least having its flight feathers scorched off. The film adaptation requires serious suspension of disbelief on this one.
  • Averted in French Sci Fi novel Malevil. The cast is celebrating in a cool 55º Fahrenheit castle cellar when World War III occurs. Within a minute the cellar is an incredible 150ºF. Emmanuel is struggling to breathe and strip off his clothes when he realizes the flagstones he's lying on are burning hot. He realizes with horror that the stone cellar may soon function as a stone oven and broil them all alive, it doesn't occur to him to consider what temperatures outside the insulated underground chamber must be like.
  • Played completely straight in Prophecy Approved Companion as Qube, having no knowledge of what lava should actually be like, concludes that it must be like painful water.
  • Definitely averted in The Quest of the Unaligned. During a battle against several hundred fire-spiders, they coat the cave walls in burning web and nearly cook the heroes alive before Laeshana puts out the flames.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Well, technically "Radiation Schmadiation." In The Film of the Book, Klaus uses Olaf's sunlight-refracting weapon to incinerate the wedding contract. The instant the sunlight hits the paper, it catches on fire. That means the thing was heated to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit just like that. Never mind the fact that Klaus perfectly lined up the device to hit such a small target, how come Olaf's hand didn't get singed? Or, you know, the stage didn't catch fire? There should at least have been smoke, considering how easily the paper went up.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation Relaunch novel Q&A, the away team find themselves maneuvering through a lava field by jumping from rock to rock. Science officer Kadohata points out that the heat should be affecting them even if they don't touch the lava, but stops once security officer Leybenzon asks her if she's complaining that things should be more difficult. (The planet was created by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, and works however they want it to.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blake's 7:
  • Subverted by Mike Rowe in Dirty Jobs. Standing at least 20-30 feet away from a fresh lava flow, he remarked "That is insanely hot!" and then added in the subsequent voiceover, "insanely hot was an understatement; it was hotter than hell". They had to get into special suits to get close since the radiant heat was enough to burn their skin, but seeing as the show centers on appreciating just how difficult everyday jobs are and strives for every aspect this is not too surprising. In other episodes, Mike has similar experiences with molten glass and molten steel — on the latter job, his face shield melted.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Played straight in "The End of the World". Solar heat is shown to be a terribly lethal thing to let through, with special sun visors to block it out. But when the visors come down, the victims have plenty of time to scream and DUCK to avoid them (with mixed success, depending on the room and whether the Doctor is nearby). The walls seem to stand up to the energy reasonably well, too.
    • "42": The heat shields are the one thing stopping everyone on the Pentallian from getting fried as the ship falls into a sun.
    • "The Fires of Pompeii" justifies how the Doctor and Donna can run around inside Mount Vesuvius without getting burned to a crisp by explaining that the villains are stealing most of the volcano's energy for their own purposes.
    • The "Pond Life" mini-episodes preceding Series 7 feature the Doctor surfing a lava flow using nothing but a surfboard. However, this is ostensibly Played for Laughs due to the Doctor's rather off-hand over-the-phone comments about it.
    • "Dragonfire" has a strange inverted version with Kane. He freezes people to death with his bare hands... but since he can't stand warm (or even non-liquid nitrogen) temperatures, the body heat of his victims should burn him horribly at the same time.
  • Eureka:
    • An episode deals with a miniature sun springing into being over the title city, creating an unending, superhot day. It keeps growing and getting hotter until it collapses a silo, melts the tires on a Jeep and fries the circuitry on a rocket. No people suffer any ill effects worse than sweating, and the idea that a small sun might cause a fire in the forest it's hovering over is never even mentioned.
    • Another episode features a giant artificially created pocket of magma somewhere under the city, which could pop up anywhere unless Carter diverts it into the nearby lake. Having done so, the lava spurts out of the tunnel he made and into the lake... while Carter stands right next to it, making his usual pithy comment.
  • Game of Thrones: This applies to both sides of the "ice and fire" theme of the series. Dragonfire works similarly to firebending from Avatar: The Last Airbender in that characters generally will not experience burns as long as they do not directly touch the flames. This gets especially ridiculous in the season 7 episode "The Spoils of War", in which Bronn and Jamie avoid the massive column of fire Drogon produces by inches and come out of it unscathed. Similarly, the White Walkers are cold enough to instantly extinguish any fire that comes within a few meters of them and have blades so cold that steel shatters upon contact, yet somehow the characters avoid instant frostbite when in their presence.
  • The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries:
    • "Mystery of the Flickering Torch" has Frank and Joe trapped inside a small closet while a fire rages outside. They break out and dive through the flames to the outside without breaking a sweat or even a singe to their clothing. They don't even sweat when they're inside that tiny closet, with the flames raging on the other side!
    • "Arson & Old Lace" has Frank, Joe, and Nancy all trying to escape a burning office building. Both Hardys are shown entering rooms with raging flames to rescue people, with no burns, sweat, or other ill effects beyond a bit of smudge and coughing. On top of that, Frank Hardy & Nancy Drew use an elevator shaft to climb to the roof & escape the fire. The room they're in is full of smoke, the shaft is shown to have flames on the floors below, yet neither Frank nor Nancy have any issues breathing nor do they cook alive while climbing this smoking-hot chimney of an elevator.
  • In an episode of the original Knight Rider, the car runs over a lava spillage not once, but twice. The tires are a little melted, but the Magical Impregnable Alloy protecting KITT is just a little dirty.
  • In Lost in Space (2018) the first episode sees a cold front coming in while Judy is diving to retrieve supplies from their submerged ship. The cold weather inexplicably freezes the water from the bottom up, as well as being so cold to freeze an entire lake in minutes but not posing the people on the surface any danger.
  • Subverted on MacGyver. In "Flame's End", the villain has locked him and a companion in a room at a nuclear power plant and he plans to flood it with the reactor's coolant water. Mac's companion points out that convection alone is going to kill them long before they have a chance to drown, scald, or be irradiated to death.
  • The Magician: In "Illusion of the Lost Dragon", Tony is able to keep working on a complicated puzzle lock despite the heat of a Lava Pit opening up underneath him. Earlier in the episode, a young man was similarly unaffected until he fell into the lava, at which point he was instantly incinerated.
  • MythBusters once tested firewalking over charcoal. The build team found out that coal is actually a decent insulator; the top being much cooler than the underside, and that the proper technique is a casual walk. This is because when running, more weight is concentrated on less area, causing a person's feet to dig into the coals; potentially causing severe burns. Adam found that out the hard way. It's a favorite trick of "life coaches" to demonstrate firewalking over wood or charcoal. Ask them to repeat the feat with a comparatively cooler metal plate.

    On a similar note, the MythBusters have demonstrated that it's perfectly possible to (very briefly) dip your fingers into molten lead, if you dip them in water beforehand. The layer of water coating your skin evaporates the moment it makes contact, and water vapor is yet another excellent insulator.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Public Property on Parade", nobody so much as breaks a sweat when standing next to Madison High School's coal fired boiler.
  • Power Rangers/Super Sentai:
    • In the second episode of Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, Moltor holds Andrew Hartford over a river of lava, in an attempt to get the Corona Aurora. Andrew suffers no ill effects from being so close to the lava.
    • And in Episode 15 of GoGo Sentai Boukenger, GoGo Jet is flown right into a volcano and someone dangled down to pick up a crystal that's floating in the lava.
  • In the Sanctuary episode "Pax Romana", two characters in insulation suits (which leave much of the head and hands exposed) leisurely execute a medical procedure surrounded by molten rock a few meters below. There's a dramatic close call where one of them falls extremely close to the lava. Sadly, her hair fails to start smoking.
  • On an episode of Smallville, Clark saves his rival Whitney from a fireball by covering his back with his body. We actually see the fireball engulfing Whitney's uncovered front, and we are shown that the blast super-heats Clark's body to the point that his father is burned just by touching him, but Whitney is fine. Their clothes are also undamaged.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Basics, part II", the "don't touch the lava" rule is very much in effect when, during an evacuation from a volcanic eruption, Chakotay rescues an alien girl who's somehow gotten herself stranded on a piece of rock.
  • Surprisingly averted in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Civil Defense". Sisko and O'Brien had to crawl through a cramped, metal tube surrounded by green fire, and they even wrapped their hands in cloth. O'Brien passed out from the heat.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale includes a scene where Q takes Picard back to primeval Earth. There are flaming pools of lava all around them, but Picard doesn't even seem to sweat. Then again, this is Q; any episode he's in is bound to violate the laws of physics at least a few times over. This is supposedly the time and place where life on Earth first evolved. There shouldn't even be oxygen.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Sarah and John standing three feet from a thermite fire hot enough to melt a metal described as having more heat resistance than titanium? Right. Setting said fire indoors and not burning down the house in the process? Priceless.

  • Completely subverted in the video for "Just Got Lucky" by Dokken; George Lynch really did play that solo in front of an active volcano, and though they weren't very close to it he says it was hot enough that he could feel it though his shoes.

  • Invoked by the "Devil's Island" pinball in Balls of Steel, with the player required to shoot the ball into a lava tube and an active volcano.
  • Congo has a shot along a lava trail that loops around the base of a volcano.
  • Gilligan's Island has Gilligan fly over a volcano that's about to erupt, without any problems.
  • Gorgar takes place inside the monster's Lava Pit, but both the Barbarian Hero and the Damsel in Distress suffer no obvious ill effects.
  • Gottlieb's Tee'd Off features a golf course set around a volcano, and the player must regularly shoot balls into it.

  • In The Adventure Zone: Balance, the party survives a fireball powerful enough to reduce a few square miles to glass by hiding in a well a few dozen feet deep.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in BattleTech: just being near lava is dangerous, causing mechs to gain extra heat each round and dealing damage to other units based on proximity. Played straight but justified in the case of non-lava based fire, as the hex grid on maps is 30 meters per hex. A mech or tank that's in a hex next to a fire is still likely to be standing 20 meters away rather than being close enough to touch it.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • If a wizard casts a fireball spell and you are 20 feet away expect to take up to 10d6 damage, more than you'd get from sticking a foot in lava. If you are 20 feet and 1 inch away? You're fine. Possibly justified as being intentionally designed that way by whoever invented the spell, allowing you to roast enemies while not harming your allies. It is magic after all. That, and it would be a massive pain in the ass for the DM and players to deal with concentric damage rings (or worse, a linear damage scale formula based on range) for everyone involved each time a wizard pops an AoE.note 
    • In what has to be one of the weirdest things about gameplay, an "Unearthly Heated" environment (anything over 211 F) deals 3d10 fire damage a round. Physical contact with magma? 2d6. Granted, total immersion deals ten times as much damage as simple contact, but when was the last time a character survived being dunked in lava long enough to be considered immersed, with charting HP still relevant? note 
    • This Trope is used to demonstrate how tough Immortals are on the cover of The Immortal Storm, an introductory adventure for Immortal-Level players in the original boxed set. The cover shows four scantly-clad human-like figures with perfectly toned torsos wading through lava with no discomfort at all. (After all, when the Player Characters are Immortal and confronted by lava, "convection? schmonvection!" is their most likely response.)
  • Played straight in Flash Point: Fire Rescue. A victim is perfectly OK being surrounded by fire markers as long as none are placed directly on top of them.
  • Averted and played straight in the various versions of GURPS. There is a spell, "Heat", that raises the temperature of an object or area by 20F per minute. Averted in the spell note that the heat radiates away normally, so "if you were in a jail, you might melt your way through the bars, but the radiated heat would probably broil you first"... then played straight in that Game Masters are explicitly told not to turn the spell into a physics exercise.
  • Played straight with the Hero Clix Muspelheim map. It includes special rules for squares containing lava, which allow a character to walk over it in complete safety, just so long as they don't end up standing in a lava square at the end of a turn, which will deal a pittance of damage. Admittedly, it is based on the superhero genre, so it's not like accurate physics was its top priority.
  • Played with in Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution. Pyrokinetics instinctively lower the temperature around their bodies, making them extremely resistant to being damaged by heat.

    Theme Parks 

  • Several characters in BIONICLE participate in lava surfing with no adverse effects. Handwaved in that they're cyborgs, most of whom have some form of heat resistance.
    • Only Matoran of fire, who have a greater heat resistance, do it for sport. Other characters surf on lava only if needed to escape. It was also mentioned that Toa of fire could survive a few seconds in lava, though it most certainly wouldn't be a pleasant experience. No-one thinks that it is stupid to surf for sport on a liquid which kill you if you fall.
    • Played very straight in the movie Mask of Light, wherein Takua (not a Fire Matoran, though everyone including himself thought he was at the time) fishes the eponymous mask out of a lava flow with his bare hands, and only feels the hotness after holding it in his hand for a moment. Then, he hops onto his comically frail lava surfboard... on all fours, with his fingers clinging onto its sides (hanging into the lava), but suffers no ill effects. The mask itself plays it straight in that the rock it was contained in when it fell into the lava completely melts, but it itself is completely unaffected (though it's noted it was made to be a lot sturdier than the average mask).
    • To be completely fair, most of the above examples are molten protodermis and not actual magma. The fact that the characters themselves are made of protodermis might actually make this worse, though...

    Web Animation 
  • As long as the cast of DSBT InsaniT aren't touching lava, (even then due to an animation oversight) they can be as close to it as possible without getting hurt.
  • In Tomorrow's Nobodies, Ben is able to survive the apartment burning down in episode 2 with no burns or injuries of any kind despite the fact that the couch he was sleeping on is partially burned away. David also suffers nothing more than pain despite his hands being on fire for the majority of the episode.


    Web Original 

Alternative Title(s): Convection Shmonvection, Convection Smonvection, Overpressure What Overpressure, Convection Schmocvection


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