Australian bushfires expected to create rare high-altitude cloud

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Originally published on October 22, 2013

Experts say fires raging across Australia's southeast are the most fierce in years. The conflation of the bushfires' intensity and current climatic conditions are expected to generate an abnormal, high-altitude atmospheric phenomenon known as a pyrocumulus cloud.

This animation explains how a pyrocumulus cloud can form.

Reuters reports that "more than 200 homes have been destroyed in New South Wales (NSW) state since Thursday, when fires tore through scattered communities on Sydney's outskirts, razing entire streets. One man died after suffering a heart attack trying to protect his home.

"'The forecast and scenario for tomorrow is about as bad as it gets. On days like tomorrow there is a very real potential for more loss of homes and loss of life,' said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

"Sixty fires were burning on Tuesday, with the largest and most dangerous in the Blue Mountains around 100 km (6 miles) west of Sydney.

"The fires are expected to flare on Wednesday with the return of temperatures in the mid-30 degree Celsius (high-80 degree Fahrenheit) range and winds gusting up to 100 kph (62 mph).

"Sydney and its surrounding regions have been given an "extreme fire danger rating" for Wednesday. Fitzsimmons urged everyone who does not need to be in the Blue Mountains to be out of the area by lunchtime.

"Authorities ordered schools in the Blue Mountains to be closed on Wednesday and evacuated nursing homes in the area."

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