California wildfire generates explosive 8-mile-high cloud

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Smoke rising from the Creek Fire has taken the form of explosions, prompting a lot of attention on social media.

Twitter screenshot

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

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