Stunning photos of pyrocumulus over fires in Australia

They were taken on a flight from Canberra to Melbourne

smoke pyrocumulus bushfires Australia
Photo of smoke from bushfires by Merrin Macleod on a flight from Canberra to Melbourne, posted January 4, 2020.

While on a flight from Canberra to Melbourne Merrin Macleod had an excellent view of pyrocumulus clouds over very active bushfires. She said on Twitter, “The country looks like ten or fifteen volcanoes have gone off.”

If the pilot had taken the most direct route to Melbourne they would have flown over many very active fires. The photos are used here with her permission.

Satellite photo smoke Australia fires
Satellite photo of smoke from fires in New South Wales and Victoria December 3, 2020. The red areas represent heat. NASA image processed by Wildfire Today.

Below is actual flight path for her 50-minute flight. About 16 minutes after takeoff the aircraft was 36,000 feet over the NSW/Victoria border.

flight path from Canberra to Melbourne
The actual flight path from Canberra to Melbourne. Flightaware.
smoke pyrocumulus bushfires Australia
Photo of smoke from bushfires by Merrin Macleod on a flight from Canberra to Melbourne, posted January 4, 2020.

A pyrocumulus cloud is produced by the intense heating of the air over a fire. This induces convection, which causes the air mass to rise to a point of stability, where condensation occurs. If the fire is large enough, the cloud may continue to grow, becoming a cumulonimbus flammagenitus which may produce lightning and start another fire.

smoke pyrocumulus bushfires Australia
Photo of smoke from bushfires by Merrin Macleod on a flight from Canberra to Melbourne, posted January 4, 2020.
smoke pyrocumulus bushfires Australia
Photo of smoke from bushfires by Merrin Macleod on a flight from Canberra to Melbourne, posted January 4, 2020.
smoke pyrocumulus bushfires Australia
Photo of smoke from bushfires by Merrin Macleod on a flight from Canberra to Melbourne, posted January 4, 2020.
smoke pyrocumulus bushfires Australia
Photo of smoke from bushfires by Merrin Macleod on a flight from Canberra to Melbourne, posted January 4, 2020.


More articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Pyrocumulus”.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

One thought on “Stunning photos of pyrocumulus over fires in Australia”

  1. Thank you for posting these photos. We need as many of these as we can get if we are to learn about these dangerous fire plumes and their causes. We obtained similar photos during the 2003 wildfires in the same area from a linescan aircraft crew and from the crew of a doomed NASA space shuttle.
    We have had truly remarkable pyro-convective events occurring in southeast Australia in recent weeks. The list of Australian pyroCbs (much easier to say than pyrocumulus flammigenitus or pyrocumulonimbus), has been growing rapidly since 2001. This year the total may double. We have had pyroCbs that are among the most severe ever recorded. The extremely dense smoke was injected up to 16km into the air, into the stratosphere, as well into low- and mid- levels. We can see in Merrin’s photos that the plumes are above the flight height of the aircraft.
    As we have seen in the past, over a quarter of these events happen around midnight, with the fires sustained by the mixing down of very dry air from above the mixing height.
    We have a lot more to learn.

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