Ferguson Fire in California forms a pyrocumulonimbus cloud

July 15th, 2018 |
GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, left), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, right) images [click to play MP4 animation]

* GOES-17 images shown here are preliminary and non-operational *

The Ferguson Fire in central California produced a pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) cloud during the afternoon hours on 15 July 2018. GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (above) showed that the high-altitude portion of the pyroCb cloud then drifted northeastward toward the California/Nevada border, where cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures cooled to near -55ºC (orange enhancement) as it crossed the border around 0005 UTC on 16 July.

A comparison of Visible images from GOES-15 (0.63 µm), GOES-17 (0.64 µm) and GOES-16 (0.64 µm) is shown below — with the imagery displayed in the native projection of each satellite. Images from GOES-16/17 are at 5-minute intervals, while images from GOES-15 are every 5-15 minutes depending on the operational scan schedule of that GOES-West satellite. GOES-17 was at its post-launch checkout position of 89.5ºW longitude, so it offered a more direct view of the pyroCb cloud.

Visible images from GOES-15 (0.63 µm, left), GOES-17 (0.64 µm, center) and GOES-16 (0.64 µm, right) [click to play animation]

Visible images from GOES-15 (0.63 µm, left), GOES-17 (0.64 µm, center) and GOES-16 (0.64 µm, right) [click to play animation]

A toggle between NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images (below) showed the pyroCb cloud southwest of the California/Nevada border (between Bridgeport KBAN and Mammoth KMMH) at 2327 UTC. In spite of a minimum cloud-top 10.8 µm infrared brightness temperature of -59ºC (red enhancement), note the darker (warmer) appearance of the cloud on the 3.7 µm image — this is due to reflection of solar radiation off the smaller ice particles of the pyroCb anvil. The -59ºC temperature roughly corresponded to an altitude of 13 km or 42.6 kft on the 00 UTC Reno, Nevada rawinsonde report (plot | data)

NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A time lapse of the pyroCb was created by Sierra Fire Watch (below).

Time lapse [click to play YouTube video]

Time lapse [click to play YouTube video]

Leave a Reply