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Pyrocumulus Clouds

Updated on September 1, 2009

We are all familiar with cumulus clouds. They are the big, puffy-white, whipped cream type that we all remember being fascinated with as kids. I learned a new word yesterday as I listened to radio news about the wildfire raging through Angeles National Forest.

This past weekend,  I left Orange County and drove up the coast from Santa Monica to Ventura County.  I witnessed Armageddon-like "Pyrocumulus " formations caused by the Station fire in Angeles National Forest. I had never heard of a pyrocumulus cloud before and was amazed at the facts that I discovered. For those of you that know nothing about them, here is some interesting information:

Pyrocumulus Cloud
Pyrocumulus Cloud

Interesting facts about pyrocumulus clouds:

  • related to fire or volcanic activity
  • produced by intense heating from the surface of the earth
  • can be brown or grayish brown in color
  • clouds can expand because of the smoke and ash, and trigger thunderstorms.
  • detonation of nuclear weapons produce pyrocumulus clouds.
  • can help or hinder a wildfire.
  • can produce rain that extinguishes the fire.


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    • frogyfish profile image


      8 years ago from Central United States of America

      Enjoyed your new information - I never thought to give those clouds a name - but it is perfect, huh. And the video was scary, amazing --it was something to see that upper white part of the cloud collapse down. Wow! I found you through Winsome, and am becoming a fan now!

    • Catlyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      Hi Amber ~ Thanks for stopping by!

      The volcanic clouds of smoke that disrupted air travel in Europe from the Icelandic eruption are probably what you saw in the news of late.


    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 

      8 years ago

      Hi Catlyn

      A very interesting and informative hub - I'd never heard of a pyrocumulus cloud before reading your hub although I've seen then many times on the television.


    • Winsome profile image


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Ha ha, Catlyn, I was working in a restaurant and shared my new found knowledge with the waitress--especially liked the fact the cloud made by the fire can put it out--almost like someone planned it that way huh. =:) Thank you for sharing.

    • Catlyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      Peggy, Thanks for commmenting and yes, you are right about Iceland! I have not heard any recent news updates on this situation. Been dealing with earthquakes up close and personal instead here in CA.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Iceland must be filled with pyrocumulus clouds in that case from the erupting volcano. Sure hope they bring much needed rain in California. Thanks for this informative hub.

    • Teresa Laurente profile image

      Maria Teresa Rodriguez - Laurente 

      8 years ago from San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.

      Hi Catlyn, I have always been awed by nature, no matter how small and simple it is. Its beauty and the way in can do to our life. Thanks for reminding us what is baby can do. More power.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Interesting, never realized they had there own category. I would not like to see those kinds of clouds up close. Good facts.

    • Catlyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      AEvans and ralwus -

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. We truly can be life-long learners and I am glad I found you too, AE!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I've seen pictures and videos of them but never knew they were called by that name. Thanks for the info. Gee, one really does learn something new all the time.

    • AEvans profile image


      9 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      Well that is great information and I am certainly glad that I found you!! **whew** :)

    • tony0724 profile image


      9 years ago from san diego calif

      Leo Carillo has some of the best waves In So Cal !

    • Catlyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      My friend Shiyloh - I have to wholeheartedly agree with you!

      Wealthmadehealthy - Thanks for stopping by and your comment. I actually saw more pyrocumulus clouds 9/4/09, hopefully from a controlled burn. Pray they catch the insane person that set the fire!

      Tony0724 - Thanks ever so for reading the Hub and commenting. We actually stay above Leo Carillo at Thorn Hill Broom State Beach.

    • tony0724 profile image


      9 years ago from san diego calif

      Nice little lesson there Cat .And that time lapse video was fascinating . Did you stay at Will Rogers state beach ? I grew up In Thousand Oaks In V Co.

    • Wealthmadehealthy profile image


      9 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

      Wonderful hub..TWC just did about a week ago, I guess, a spot on these clouds. I wish they would form rain over the fire...I am distressed, because I just learned that the fire was not a natural disaster but is being called arson by investigators. I pray for all of you in CA that the fire will not only be contained better, but will be put out. I am thankful for the thousands of people who are working together non-stop to stifle the blaze. God Bless!

    • My Friend Shiyloh profile image

      My Friend Shiyloh 

      9 years ago

      I like The Shekinah Cloud :-)

      Good Hub

    • Catlyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      Fastfreta ~ Thanks for your stopping by and reading! I am surprised that everyone (including me) had not heard of this phenomena. Hopefully, with the control burns, the fire will literally run out of fuel soon. Stay well and again, I appreciate the comment.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you Catlyn. I was privy to those Pyrocumulus clouds in a most uncomfortable way, living so close to the center of the action. I certainly hope they do produce rain, because we sorely need it. We were told not to go out, so as not to breath the air produced by the fire, however, I am not an indoors person, and I still perform my usual activities. Thanks for sharing this most informal hub. I'm going to now, act as if I am the smartest person my friends know and use what you shared. LOL! Very, very good hub.

    • Catlyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      Thanks for the comment and you are very welcome, Butterfly! We never studied these types of clouds and my kids did not either. I wonder why?

    • ButterflyWings profile image


      9 years ago

      Fascinating! I remember studying clouds when I was a kid, but I don't think this type made it onto the chart. I still like the study of weather and clouds. Thanks for expanding my knowledge.

      That is a cool video!

    • Catlyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      judydianne - thanks for the comment. This is the worst fire ever and they don't expect containment for two weeks.

    • judydianne profile image


      9 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

      Interesting! I have never heard of pyrocumulous clouds. Hopefully, they will produce rain.

    • Catlyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      thefount and Russ52 ~ Thanks for stopping by and reading the Hub. These clouds have been present since last Friday. Hopefully they will produce some rain.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I've Never Heard About Pyrocumulus Clouds.

      Totally Fascinating Facts ! ! !

    • thefount profile image


      9 years ago from North Central Louisiana

      Truly fascinating - thank you for sharing this!

      Please stay safe and be blessed.


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