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We observed metal vapor arcs between separating electrodes in a demountable vacuum chamber using high speed photography. The peak values of the ac arc current half-wave ranged from 5 kA to 67 kA. Determination of the arc appearance as functions of arc current and electrode gap revealed that the arc can assume various types of columnar forms when the current at the instant of electrode separation exceeds 7 kA. The duration of the columnar arcing forms is influenced by axial magnetic fields differently for different field strengths. The graphical representation of the results allows prediction of the most probable arc appearance for a given set of operating parameters. A qualitative explanation of the various arc appearances on the basis of balances between magnetic and kinetic pressures is provided.