Western Canada has faced an insane week of weather. How insane? Well, we honestly hadn’t even heard of fire clouds before, but now there are those to deal with too. And, we like to be the type of people with, at the very least, a casual understanding of weather events. It makes us so much fun at parties!

Fire clouds need one of two specific events to happen- volcanic eruptions and wildfires. Basically, as ash rises, it produces condensation that eventually becomes a cloud. These clouds have a couple of different scientific names, although ‘pyrocumulus’ seems to be the most used.

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Now, here’s the problem. In extreme situations, these fire clouds can become “pyrocumulonimbus” clouds, aka fire thunderheads. In these cases (like in western Canada) conditions allow for high winds, precipitation (although usually light/nonexistent), and of course, lightning. So really, it’s kind of like a feedback loop- wildfire causes fire cloud, fire cloud (maybe) creates lightning and strong winds, and another wildfire starts up.

In fact, Canada faced over 700,000 lightning strikes on Wednesday alone, thanks in large part to these clouds. For reference, that’s like 5% of the total number of lightning strikes Canada sees in a year.

So, yeah, things aren’t looking good for wildfire season this year. Stay informed and stay prepared this summer, folks!