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

P. Cunningham, M.J. Reeder

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43 Citations (Scopus)


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 pyrocumulonimbi, 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. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages6
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Australia
  • Canberra
  • Convective storms
  • Main characteristics
  • Numerical simulation
  • Parameterized
  • Severe storms
  • Tornadogenesis
  • Western side
  • Cell membranes
  • Clouds
  • Computer simulation languages
  • Large eddy simulation
  • Storms
  • Tornadoes
  • Fires
  • atmospheric convection
  • atmospheric modeling
  • cumulonimbus
  • large eddy simulation
  • numerical model
  • tornado
  • tropopause
  • wildfire
  • Australasia
  • Australian Capital Territory


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