The wildfires besieging Australia's eastern coast are reportedly so extreme that they are creating fire thunderstorms and potentially fire tornadoes.
Pyrocumulonimbus clouds, or fire-generated thunderstorms, have formulated over southeastern Australia, The Washington Post reported on Monday. These clouds are created when fires are demonstrating extreme behavior, including spreading quickly past containment zones, changing direction and developing fire whirls and fire tornadoes
The blazes have sent smoke particles into the stratosphere, the layer where weather develops, allowing them to affect regional and global climate.
Neil Lareau, a meteorologist at the University of Nevada at Reno, told the Post that he has never seen pyrocumulonimbus clouds as extensive and long-lasting.
“The scope of the fires, I’ve just never seen anything like it,” he said, adding they have covered far more ground than any California fire.
A Qantas Airlines flight to Canberra found itself inside one of these clouds over the weekend, and passengers saw the windows turn bright orange and then pitch black as the plane shook, ABC News reported.
Extreme pyrocumulonimbus clouds can separate themselves from their heat source and create weather like flooding, muddy rain, discolored hail and downdraft winds on their own.
A firestorm surrounded a weather station in Cabramurra Saturday sending temperatures to 158 degrees and winds to 80 mph, according to the Post.
Preliminary reports indicate a fire tornado may have caused an accident that killed a firefighter in New South Wales last week, The Guardian reported.