The out-of-control Big Creek fire near Fresno, California, is so powerful that the National Weather Service is scrambling to explain its terrifying impact on the atmosphere.
Intense heat from the 73,278-acre inferno has produced not just smoke, but something called a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, which resembles the aftermath of an atomic explosion.
Photos of the cloud have rattled social media, including images taken at eye-level by people in passing aircraft.
The National Weather Service in Portland called the cloud “incredible,” adding: “Tops occasionally reached 8 or 9 miles high, with updrafts strong enough to push overshooting tops into the stratosphere.”
NOAA satellites shared video of the formation Sept. 6, noting the “extraordinary” cloud appeared at a time when the fire “grew explosively.” The cloud topped out at more