Hot-burning B.C. wildfires creating their own weather, spawning thunderstorms and lightning strikes

Wildfires in the British Columbia Interior are pumping so much hot smoke and ash high into the atmosphere, they are actually creating their own micro-weather.

Meteorologists call the resulting phenomenon pyro-cumulonimbus clouds, and say they can spawn thunderstorms and lightning strikes which can then ignite more fires.

“In many ways they look like a very severe thunderstorm from the ground and from space,” said Michael Fromm, a meteorologist with the United States Naval Research Laboratory. “And so they will generate lightning just because of the same mechanism that generates lightning in a regular thunderstorm.”

Thousands of lightning strikes in B.C. over the last few days are blamed for igniting dozens of new wildfires – and officials expect more to spark in the coming days.

“To the extent that you have these lighting up or impinging on communities, you have to be very mindful because these storms, when they occur, are dynamic feedback loops within themselves,” said Fromm. “They create their own weather, exacerbate their own fire weather.”

Fromm went on to say with more unseasonably warm weather in the forecast, and already tinder-dry conditions in B.C.’s forests, he expects the wildfire situation could potentially get much worse as the summer progresses.