Researchers Focus on Fire Clouds That Reach to the Stratosphere


  • Randy Showstack


Volcanic eruptions are not the only violent events that can inject smoke-colored and cauliflower-textured clouds into the stratosphere. Pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCB) storms can, too. These recently discovered phenomena are storms caused or aided by fire; they have many characteristics similar to thunderstorms, including lightning, hail, and extreme vertical height through the troposphere and into the lower stratosphere.

Common wisdom had held that “the only event that can explosively pollute the stratosphere is a volcanic eruption,” Michael Fromm, a meteorologist with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., said at a 9 August press briefing at the 2010 Meeting of the Americas in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. “Now we know that pyroCBs can do a version of this, thanks to the heat from fire.”