Story at a glance:

  • Smoke and heat from wildfires can create what is known as a fire cloud, or pyrocumulonimbus.
  • Fire clouds can also lead to a phenomenon known as dRy lightning, which can create another fire.
  • Air rising from a fire can create a fire tornado.

Wildfires can create their own weather systems, sometimes powerful enough to spark a new set of fires. 

As the U.S. continues to battle another wildfire season, one such blaze is already doing so — the fire in southern Oregon (also known as the Bootleg Fire).

So how exactly does this exactly happen? 

Pyrocumulonimbuses, or fire clouds, are one such weather pattern caused by wildfires — as is the case with the fire in Oregon.

The intense heat from wildfires makes the air hot and smokey, then smoke plumes mix with the cool air’s turbulence, causing it to grow in size.

When these plumes reach the sky, it becomes a fire cloud, according to USA Today.


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Pyrocumulonimbus clouds have ice particles in them and can develop into thunderstorms, according to Wildfire Today.

The clouds resemble an anvil shape, and at the top of the anvil, lightning strikes the ground, potentially starting another fire on dry vegetation; this is called dry lightning. 

The bottom of the anvil produces the rain about 5 miles away from both sides of the opposite ends of the wildfires.

The occurrence has a bad reputation amongst those who study weather and climate.

NASA called these clouds the "fire-breathing dragon of clouds" because of their potentially destructive power. 

As Changing America previously reported, last month, a fire tornado took form in northern California near the Oregon border. California is combatting a heat wave and drought simultaneously.

​​A fire tornado is a swirl of smoke and fire that can only exist under extreme dry conditions, and when its swirling winds travel through wildfires, they become heated by the flames and carry their destruction via a tornado.


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Published on Jul 21, 2021