The billowing plumes of smoke from the uncontrolled wildfires of Northern California are rising high enough into the atmosphere to create their own weather, including thunder and even rain.
Firefighters continue to fight a burning mosquito fire within the Tahoe National Forest just east of Forest Hill. The blaze has exploded since it started on Tuesday, and by Friday he had burned more than 23,000 acres.
Huge plumes of smoke billow, creating what are known as pyrocumulus or pyrogenic clouds. FOX meteorologist Cody Braud explained that so-called “fire clouds” could form due to extreme heating of the air column, which destabilizes the atmosphere.
On Thursday, atmospheric observation data from Reno, Nevada, showed that the mixing of cool and hot air on the surface caused the Mosquito Fire smoke plume to rise unimpeded to about 19,700 feet.
Researchers at San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Laboratory studied plumes from mosquito fires to learn more about fire weather behavior.
“In fact, when the smoke was this high in the atmosphere, we saw some indications of a shallow layer of light moisture,” Braud said. “If the smoke plume can find some form of moisture, that’s when the pyrocumulus cloud can start to take shape. That’s the presence of moisture. Soon, moisture can condense into smoke contaminants.” Yes, it can rain, as well as the crazy lightning pictures you see every now and then.”
The weather in one of these fire clouds resembles a daily thunderstorm and can produce spectacular lightning.
“When that water condenses, ice forms at much higher altitudes,” says Braud. “The ice collides and creates a positive charge that eventually discharges with a negative charge.”
The same type of cloud can also form over volcanoes.
When a primordial cloud causes lightning, it becomes a primordial cumulonimbus cloud. Good luck saying it’s five times faster.