Smoke and heat from a massive wildfire in southeastern Oregon are creating giant “fire clouds” above the blaze – dangerous plumes of smoke and ash that can reach up to six miles (10 km) in the sky and are visible from more than 100 miles. (160 km) away.
Authorities have placed these clouds at the top of the list of extreme fire behavior they are seeing amid smuggling fire, the largest wildfire in the US Hell grew to about 377 square miles on Friday ( 976 square kilometers), an area larger than New York City, and devastated a part of the American West that is suffering from a historic drought.
This week, meteorologists also spotted a larger and more extreme form of fiery clouds, which can create their own weather, including “fiery tornadoes.”
The extreme fire behavior, including the formation of more fire clouds, was expected to persist into Friday and worsen through the weekend. There are currently at least 70 wildfires in the western United States and dozens more in Canada.
Extremely high temperatures are also expected to bake the west over the weekend, from the central Rocky Mountains to southern Canada, as the region prepares for the fourth heat wave in five weeks. Forecasts estimate that highs across the region will be 20 to 30 F higher than average for this time of year. By Monday, Bozeman, Montana You can see temperatures reaching 107F (41.6C) – the highest temperature ever recorded in the city.
The heat will complicate firefighting efforts and increase the threat of new ignitions.
Firefighters were fighting Friday to control the raging smuggling fire, which stretches miles a day in windy conditions. Authorities ordered a new round of evacuations amid concerns that hell, which has already destroyed 21 homes, may merge with another fire that has also increased in size.
Pyrocumulus clouds, literally translated as “clouds of fire,” look like giant storms of dirty colors that settle on a huge column of smoke that rises from a forest fire. Often times, the top of the smoke plume flattens into the shape of an anvil.
In Oregon, fire officials say clouds form between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. every day as the sun penetrates the layer of smoke and heats the ground below, creating an updraft of warm air. Crews are seeing the biggest and most dangerous clouds over a section of nature made up mostly of dead trees, which burn instantly and in high heat.
For four days in a row, the pirate fire has spawned multiple clouds of fire that rise nearly six miles into the atmosphere and are “easily visible from 100 to 120 air miles away,” authorities said Friday. The conditions that create the clouds were expected to work over the weekend.
When a pyrocumulus cloud forms over a fire, meteorologists begin to keep a close eye on its older brother, the pyrocumulonimbus cloud. NASA has called the latter the “fire-breathing cloud dragon” because it is so hot and large that it creates its own climate.
In the worst case, fire crews on the ground could see one of the monstrous clouds generate a “fire tornado”, generate its own dry bolt and create dangerous hot winds below. Clouds can also send particulate matter from the plume of smoke up to 10 miles above the Earth’s surface.
So far, most of the clouds in the Bootleg fire have been the least intense fire clouds, but the National Weather Service detected a pyrocumulonimbus cloud forming on Wednesday in what it called “terrifying” satellite images.
“Please send positive thoughts and good wishes to the firefighters … It is a difficult time for them right now,” the weather service said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, a fire near the Northern California town of Paradise, which was largely destroyed in a 2018 wildfire that killed 85 people, worried homeowners who were beginning to return to normal after survive the deadliest fire in American history.
And in Washington, a wildfire threatened more than 1,500 homes near Wenatchee, which grew to 14 square miles (36 square kilometers), and crews had little control over it, the Washington state department of natural resources said.
Extremely dry conditions and heat waves linked to climate change have swept across the western United States, making wildfires more difficult to fight. Climate change has made the region much warmer and drier in the last 30 years and will continue to make the climate more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.