Lightning is Shooting Out of the Smoke Plume from the Hog Fire

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse…

As Lassen County’s Hog Fire continues to send massive amounts of smoke into the Northern California air, it’s suffocating nearby towns. On top of that, apparently the smoke plume has developed its own weather system, possibly entering this story into the Top 10 of Craziest Headlines of 2020.

On Monday evening, an atmospheric scientist specializing in wildfire plumes named Neil Lareau tweeted that the smoke over the Hog Fire had turned purocumulonimbus, meaning that it could develop its own weather:

Of course, anyone who read that Tweet was probably suspicious, so the National Weather Service came in from the top rope to confirm the claim and announce that lightning had been detected from the smoke plume:

The Wikipedia definition of a pyrocumulus is:

produced by the intense heating of the air from the surface. The intense heat induces convection, which causes the air mass to rise to a point of stability, usually in the presence of moisture…

Pyrocumuli contain severe turbulence, manifesting as strong gusts at the surface, which can exacerbate a large conflagration. A large pyrocumulus…may also produce lightning. A pyrocumulus which produces lightning is actually a type of cumulonimbus, a thundercloud, and is called pyrocumulonimbus.

As of Monday night, the Hog Fire has burned 5,800 acres in Lassen County and has been supplemented by the nearby Gold Fire, which has burned 300 acres and forced evacuations in nearby campgrounds. While the recent fire news has been scary and a bad sign for the fire season to come in NorCal, the fact that our fires are developing there own weather systems is just plain nuts.

A big shoutout to the firefighters out there keeping NorCal residents safe during these fires. Also, keep your eye out for lightning in the area.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. This is actually pretty common with big fires. Surprising how many people are unaware of this phenomenon. You have a typo, BTW. It’s PYRO. Not puro. (First graph.)

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