Nearly all of California is suffering from extreme drought. With these extremely dry conditions comes wildfires. This month, lightning strikes set off several fast-moving fires in northern California.

The below images were taken by an Oregon Air National Guard F-15C. You can see the developing pyrocumulus clouds, better known as fire clouds, in the photos below.



Note: the above images were taken from the Gulch fire in Oregon. This is part of the Beaver Complex fire that has been burning on the California-Oregon border.

What are pyrocumulus clouds? They are tall, cauliflower-shaped clouds. Similar to cumulus clouds, but the heat from wildfires create pyrocumulus clouds versus the heat from the sun-warmed ground. Pyrocumulus clouds have even been known to produce thunderstorms under certain conditions. These clouds are then known as pyrocumulonimbus clouds.

The monitoring of these ‘fire clouds’ is important for scientists because they can affect air quality over a large area. According to NASA, the smoke from the fire in the images above eventually moved over Oregon and into Idaho and Montana.


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