No, this is not some deliberately trashy film, an epic legend: the “tornado of fire” really exists. Such phenomena are certainly not new today, but the surprising fact is that three have been spotted recently in California. So what are they and, above all, how are they formed?
The tornadoes of fire cause huge, serious fires whose columns of extremely hot air interact with the atmosphere and cause the formation of clouds. If the weather conditions are not too bad, the fire can create a cloud called pyrocumulus, simply a cloud that forms over the flames. These hellish tornadoes form when the fire is particularly large and intense, or when the atmosphere above it is unstable.
In the presence of one of the two conditions described above, the process can give birth to a pyrocumulonimbus. In technical language, cumulus refers to the typical soft clouds (but which weigh incredibly much) that we see in the clear sky, while cumulonimbus clouds are those vertically developing clouds, also called convective clouds which are formed as a result of an intense heating of the ground, are generated in conditions of atmospheric instability and may also contain lightning.
A pyro-cumulonimbus cloud is therefore the evolution of a pyro-cumulus, which also produces electrical activity. The creation of an actual fire tornado still remains very rare, although recently such phenomena have become more than widespread this year in California – where the sky has even turned orange.
Attached to the news you will find the video of the frightening phenomenon.