Pyrocumulus on the Horizon

The Cranston wildfire in California is intense enough that it’s creating its own weather. This timelapse video shows the formation and growth of a pyrocumulus cloud, also associated with volcanoes, over the wildfire. In both instances, the extreme heat causes a massive column of hot, turbulent air to rise. Because ash and smoke are carried upward as well, there are many places for any moisture in the atmosphere to nucleate, forming the cloud we see. In timelapse, the roiling nature of the air’s motion is especially apparent. This turbulence can be dangerous, as it may contribute to high winds and even lightning, both of which can spread the fire further. (Video credit: J. Morris; via James H.)

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