Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Explained: ‘Fire-breathing dragon clouds’, similar to fire-driven thunder

This week’s aerial photos of the McKinney fire show a pyrocumulonimbus, a nearly 50,000-foot plume that is becoming a frequent occurrence. This year’s latest cloud-producing fires are going almost unchecked in California’s Klamath National Forest. According to Derek Mallia, a researcher at the University of Utah, who recently co-authored a paper showing how the smoke plumes are getting bigger, they are comparable to thunderstorms triggered by fires and related to firefighters. Huh.

Large-scale storm systems such as low pressure areas or cold fronts are often accompanied by thunderstorms. However, a fire can create a thunderstorm of its own where the smoke combines with the resulting thundercloud if it is large enough and there is enough moisture in the air. In short, according to Malia, fire is creating its own season.

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Because they leave a gap between the cloud and the ground, they can also cause the fire to move the wrong way. David Peterson, a meteorologist at the US Naval Research Laboratory, claimed during a virtual press conference in 2021 that wildfires generate rising air as hot as they are. “These are pushing the smoke upward at extreme velocities, as if they are injecting smoke at altitudes above the cruising altitude of jets.” “So, presumably, we’re talking at 50 or 60,000 feet.”

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Researchers are constantly learning about storms triggered by fire. To aid fire management and firefighters, Malia and his colleagues want to find a mechanism to predict when pyrocumulonimbus clouds may form. They also want to know how clouds may contribute to the continued warming of the atmosphere. Mallia warned that the smoke carried into the lower stratosphere could have an impact on the climate. Black carbon, which is abundant in smoke particles, can heat up when exposed to sunlight at high altitudes.

(with inputs from agencies)

Nation World News Desk
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