Scientists have confirmed that recently identified Pyrocumulonimbus clouds are responsible for unusual atmospheric phenomena.
These eye-catching clouds, which are "born" out of fire have now helped meteorologists to solve an old mystery.
A cumulonimbus, Cb, belongs to one of the main types of clouds. It is a massive cloud announcing the coming of rain and thunderstorm.
It is often accompanied by very strong wind.
Nevertheless, these enormous clouds are nothing compare to clouds known as Pyrocumulonimbus (PCBs), whioch are created by the smoke and heat from fire.
Pyrocumulonimbus can ravage tens of thousands of acres.
A pyrocumulonimbus storm combines smoke and fire with the features of a violent thunderstorm.
Pollutants from these storms are funneled into the stratosphere. Image credit: Naval Research Lab/Mike Fromm
Recent study suggests that pyroCbs are responsible for a huge volume of pollutants trapped in the upper atmosphere.
In the last century, large quantities of particles, characteristic of volcanic dust were detected in the upper stratosphere.
This stratospheric pollution has been erronously attributed to particles from volcanic eruptions.
However, since no significant volcanic erruptions have been documented, meteorologists started to suspect something else must be responsible for
the pollution in the stratosphere.
Scientists now know that volcanic dust should not be blamed for pollution in the upper stratosphere. Credit: NASA.
The entry of dust into the upper part of the stratosphere is blocked by a protective layer called the tropopause.
Scientists believe that "nothing less energetic than a volcanic eruption could penetrate the Earth tropopause" in a short period of time.
In their report scientists concluded that pollutants from Pyrocumulonimbus storms are funneled into the stratosphere.
A pyrocumulonimbus cloud towers over thick smoke from fires burning near Canberra, Australia, in 2003.
The cloud's strong winds caused the fires to explode into the Australian city. Credit: New South Wales Rural Fire Service
"An individual pyroCb can inject particles into the lower stratosphere as high as 10 miles," says Dr. Glenn K. Yue,
an atmospheric scientist at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
PyroCbs happen more often than people realize, Yue added.
The pyroCbs are "born" out of fire and humans have been responsible for many Pyrocumulonimbus storms.
The worst fire in Colorado history was set by a forestry officer "and within 24 hours there was a Pyrocumulonimbus storms", says Mike Fromm,
a meteorologist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
Whether human actions can influence Pyrocumulonimbus activity enough to significantly impact the global climate remains an open question.
What we do know is that scientists seem to have sold the puzzle of what is causing pollution in the upper stratosphere.
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