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Environmental controls on pyrocumulus and pyrocumulonimbus initiation and development
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (2016)
  • Neil P. Lareau, San Jose State University
  • Craig B. Clements, San Jose State University
In this paper we present the first direct observational evidence that the condensation level in pyrocumulus and pyrocumulonimbus clouds can be significantly higher than the ambient lifted condensation level. In addition, we show that the environmental thermodynamic profile, day-to-day variations in humidity, and ambient wind shear all exert significant influence over the onset and development of pyroconvective clouds. These findings are established using a scanning Doppler lidar and mobile radiosonde system during two large wildfires in northern California, the Bald Fire and the Rocky Fire. The lidar is used to distinguish liquid water from smoke backscatter during the plume rise, and thus provides a direct detection of plume condensations levels. Plume tops are subsequently determined from both the lidar and nearby radar observations. The radiosonde data, obtained adjacent to the fires, contextualize the lidar and radar observations, and enable estimates of the plume ascent, convective available potential energy, and equilibrium level. A noteworthy finding is that in these cases, the convective condensation level, not the lifted condensation level, provides the best estimate of the pyrocumulus initiation height.
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This article originally appeared in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, volume 16, 2016, and can be found online at the following link:

© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Citation Information
Neil P. Lareau and Craig B. Clements. "Environmental controls on pyrocumulus and pyrocumulonimbus initiation and development" Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Vol. 16 (2016) p. 4005 - 4022 ISSN: 1680-7324
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC_BY International License.