Zooming around with Zoe: British Columbia wildfires spurring Pyrocumulonimbus clouds

Zooming Around With Zoe

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — This June, Canada saw some dangerous heat, breaking the national high-temperature record. Unfortunately, the same town that broke that record was burned to the ground just one day later.

By the end of June, more than 40 wildfires were burning across the Canadian province of British Columbia.
Only one day after setting the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada, the town of Lytton was engulfed by flames. Local officials say residents had only minutes to get out, with nearly 90% of the village burned to the ground.

Two other nearby fires were classified as out of control and burned 60 and 75 square miles respectively in less than 24 hours.

FILE – In this Thursday, July 1, 2021 file photo, a wildfire burns in the mountains north of Lytton, British Columbia, Canada, during record high temperatures. According to a study released on Wednesday, July 7, 2021, the deadly heat wave that roasted the Pacific Northwest and western Canada “was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change” which also added a few extra degrees to the record-smashing warmth. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

After the July 4th weekend, the number of fires went up to over 200. Many fires were caused by an extreme lightning event in which over 710,000 strikes were recorded in only 15 hours — that’s about 5% of Canada’s yearly lightning in less than one day.

The bright white areas over the large fires are pyrocumulonimbus clouds, also known as ‘fire breathing’ clouds – made of smoke and ice and created by heat rising from a fire. These clouds can actually produce thunderstorms and lightning, which can spark even more fires and begin a dangerous cycle.

The wildfires did have one positive effect when smoke drifted into the northern US, it brought a hazy, colorful hue to the sky and spectacular sunsets.

British Columbia is no stranger to wildfires, but scientists are confident the extreme heat only amplified the fire danger.

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