Severe convective storms initiated by intense wildfires: Numerical simulations of pyro-convection and pyro-tornadogenesis

Philip Cunningham, Michael John Reeder

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On the afternoon of 18 January 2003, wildfires swept through several outer suburbs of Canberra (Australia) producing, inter alia, a series of large pyro-cumulonimbus cells and at least one tornado. The results of a large-eddy simulation with a parameterized fire are reported here. The simulation, motivated by the Canberra wildfires and severe storms, captures the main characteristics of the observed pyro-cumulonimbi, including the formation of a tornado close to where one was observed. In addition, the model develops prominent horizontally oriented vortices on the western side of the fire in the direction of the low-level shear, and a series of horizontally oriented vortices on the upstream side of the convection column. The production of water by the fire is critical for the development of a pyro-cumulonimbus cell intense enough to reach the tropopause as observed and plays a significant role in the associated tornadogenesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L12812-1 - L12812-5
Number of pages5
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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