NASA’s atmospheric scientists managed to capture a rare sight on August 8, 2019, when their DC-8 flying laboratory passed directly through a large fire cloud, or scientifically speaking, a pyrocumulonimbus, rising from a wildfire in eastern Washington. The flight was part of a joint NOAA and NASA field campaign called FIREX-AQ to study the composition and chemistry of smoke to better understand its impact on air quality and climate. Read more for the full image and additional information.
This image was captured from roughly 30,000 feet, and shows the setting Sun shining through thick smoke at 8 p.m. Mountain Time. What causes this effect? Particles in the smoke reflect light in ways that make the Sun appear orange. You also see the smoke plume (gray) that fed the pyrocumulonimbus cloud (white).
“The views were absolutely stunning. Very few photographs of large pyroCbs are available, especially from the air. PyroCb are like large chimneys, transporting a large quantity of smoke into the lower stratosphere,” said David Peterson, lead forecaster for FIREX-AQ, was in the cockpit of NASA’s DC-8.