Unusual Weather Event Observed in Texas Friday: Pyrocumulus Cloud Produced a Severe Thunderstorm

Linda Lam
Published: May 12, 2018

A Texas wildfire led to a unique weather phenomenon on Friday — a pyrocumulus cloud and amazing supercell thunderstorm.

The Mallard Fire began on May 8, 2018, and has burned more than 70 square miles in the Texas Panhandle, southeast of Amarillo.

This wildfire is burning so intensely that a pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud or flammagenitus, was able to form.

These clouds typically form in association with wildfires or volcanic eruptions due to the intense heating of the air which cools and condenses as it ascends.

The fast streams of rising air sometimes can allow the cloud to continue to build and become a thunderstorm. As the air is pulled upward, winds can become stronger and more erratic and can help to sustain and strengthen the fire.

In this unusual case, a supercell thunderstorm formed to the northeast of the fire. This severe thunderstorm produced one-inch hail just north of Wheeler, Texas, Friday evening.

In addition, lightning is also possible with pyrocumulus clouds, which was observed in this case from the Mallard Fire, as a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, Randy Bowers noted. Lightning is dangerous in this situation as it can start additional fires.

Typically, significant precipitation is not produced but localized strong winds can also result, impacting the spread of the fire.

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