Northern California’s Bear Fire produces a pyrocumulonimbus cloud

September 9th, 2020 |

GOES-17 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, top left), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, top right), Fire Temperature RGB + GLM Flash Extent Density (bottom left) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.35 µm, bottom right) [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-17 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, top left), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, top right), Fire Temperature RGB + GLM Flash Extent Density (bottom left) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.35 µm, bottom right) [click to play animation | MP4]

1-minute Mesoscale Domain Sector GOES-17 (GOES-West) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm), Fire Temperature Red-Green-Blue (RGB) + GLM Flash Extent Density (FED) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.35 µm) images (above) showed the formation of a pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) cloud over the Bear Fire (part of the North Complex) in Northern California on 09 September 2020. The coldest cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures were -61.4ºC; no GLM-detected lightning activity was seen with this pyroCb. 

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images (below) displayed the initial 2 pyroCb cloud pulses shortly after their formation. Side-illumination from the Moon (which was in the Waning Gibbous phase, at 59% of Full) allowed for a distinct shadow to be cast northwest of the colder/taller pyroCb pulse — and the pyroCb clouds exhibited a darker appearance than the layer of low-altitude smoke to the west, likely due to very high amounts of fresh smoke contained within the rapidly-rising cloud turrets.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A toggle between time-matched Infrared Window images of the Bear Fire pyrocumulonimbus cloud from Suomi NPP (SNPP) and GOES-17 (below) highlighted the differences in spatial resolution — 375-m with SNPP VIIRS, vs 2-km (at satellite sub-point) with GOES-17 ABI — and the parallax displacement inherent with GOES-17 imagery at that location (17 km for a 15.2-km tall cloud top). The coldest cloud-top infrared brightness temperature was -76.2ºC with SNPP, vs -59.9ºC with GOES-17 (identical color enhancements were applied to both images).

Infrared Window images from Suomi NPP (11.45 µm) and GOES-17 (11.45 µm) [click to enlarge]

Infrared Window images from Suomi NPP (11.45 µm) and GOES-17 (10.35 µm) [click to enlarge]

GOES-17 True Color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images created using Geo2Grid (below) showed the southward drift of the high-altitude pyroCb cloud material during the day, along with widespread dense smoke that covered much of California at lower altitudes.

GOES-17 True Color RGB images [click to pay animation | MP4]

GOES-17 True Color RGB images [click to pay animation | MP4]