Smoke from Pacific Northwest wildfires is visible from space.
The wildfires burning in California and Oregon right now are so big that they've been seen on satellite images from space.
On Wednesday, September 9, scientist Daniel Swain saw an incredible image; a “smoke cyclone” in the air over California. According to Swain, it's a meteorological feature he has not encountered before, “a mid-level low-pressure swirl over the North Coast—entirely encircled by dense smoke!”
Swain shared a video of the satellite images on Twitter. Despite the scary images, there is no danger of an actual cyclone or another intense weather event from the smoke clouds.
A meteorological feature I don't think I've seen before--a "smoke cyclone?" Looks like a mid-level low pressure swirl over North Coast--entirely encircled by dense smoke! Plus, bit of shallow convection atop smoke layer to south? Hmmm... cc @nplareau @NWSBayArea @NickyNaus #CAwx pic.twitter.com/QANlM2f2cx— Daniel Swain (@Weather_West) September 10, 2020
According to the National Weather Service, the high winds have pushed the smoke to a high altitude of about 2,000 to 4,000 feet. This prevents the smoke from settling closer to the planet's surface. A long and severe heatwave, extremely dry conditions, and rare summer thunderstorms have contributed to a very intense fire season in California this year. At least 2.5 million acres have burned in the state already this fire season. Air quality in both states has fluctuated, and with particles and ash in the air for over a month, this has prompted air quality warnings throughout the Pacific Northwest.
This is California’s worst fire season in history, and several other states are fighting fast-moving, large destructive fires—including Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. Almost 30,000 firefighters are working to battle these blazes across the country, according to the National Fire Interagency Center.
The orange skies this morning are a result of wildfire smoke in the air. Strong winds over the past few days transported ash from fires in northern California and the Sierra Nevada into the region. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/IGFVDgGLpC— Bay Area Air Quality (@AirDistrict) September 9, 2020
A huge pyrocumulonimbus cloud was seen earlier this month over California’s Creek Fire, which has burned almost 176,000 acres. It is said to be the largest “fire thunderstorm” event ever recorded. These huge dense smoke clouds form in the air above wildfires and with enough moisture can create the rare smoke-filled thunderhead phenomenon.
Wildfire season in 2020 so far has been incredibly destructive, with at least a dozen deaths, millions of acres burned, and thousands of people have been forced out of their homes.
Have you been impacted by a wildfire? Share your story with us in the comments.