Washington wildfire smoke triggered a thunderstorm – and NASA researchers flew through it.

The phenomenon, called a pyrocumulonimbus or PyroCb, “is essentially a thunderstorm that is created or driven by a wildfire,” said David Peterson (Naval Research Laboratory).  “As we fly into this deep smoke, the light goes down, and the sun gets orange,” observed Rebecca Hornbrook, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (ACOM Laboratory). “It’s like a weird sepia-toned orange-ish hue.” Peterson's and Hornbrook's comments came after a research flight with the FIREX-AQ field campaign on August 8, 2019, flying out of Boise, Idaho.

Teaser image
Scientists on a NASA-flown DC-8 were able to photograph and view this wildfire-produced thunderstorm. Layers of smoke in the atmosphere near the thunderstorm make the sun appear orange. (Photo courtesy of David Peterson, Naval Research Laboratory)