Why might fire tornadoes become more frequent?
At the moment, the United States is in the grip of flames. California and North Carolina are experiencing massive fires and with them a rare and impressive phenomenon, fire tornadoes.
When you hear the word fire tornado, you imagine the meeting of a classic tornado and swirling flames. This rare weather phenomenon is a little more subtle than that. Currently, fires are raging in California and North Carolina in the United States. News reports have relayed the formation of two fire tornadoes near these fires on August 14 and 16. The images show two huge swirls of smoke and ash rather than a vortex of flames, although these can also be sucked in.
Ingredients of a fire tornado
When fires are intense, the large amount of smoke they give off creates an inferno-like atmosphere. With the heat generated by the flames, the air mass rises, forming vortices that can carry the flames away. When the fire is large enough, these updrafts become stronger and, like thunderstorms, form cumulonimbus clouds. In the case of a fire, they are called pyrocumulonimbus.
But there is one ingredient missing to form a fire tornado, the wind. The wind is necessary for the updraft of the thunderstorm to start rotating. Then, the movement spreads little by little towards the ground.
This phenomenon is quite rare and difficult to predict by meteorologists. In California, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the first time in its history as a fire raged in Lassen County. As temperatures rise and droughts become more frequent, the number of fires is expected to increase and with them fire tornadoes.