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Wildfires fueling 'fire clouds' in Australia

The intense flames are creating powerful weather systems that are spreading the danger.
Credit: AP
This Monday, Dec. 30, 2019 photo provided by State Government of Victoria shows wildfires in East Gippsland, Victoria state, Australia. Wildfires burning across Australia's two most-populous states trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions Tuesday, Dec. 31, and were feared to have destroyed many properties and caused fatalities. (State Government of Victoria via AP)

VICTORIA, Australia — They were racing to escape fast-moving flames – until the fires invaded major evacuation routes. CBS News reports impenetrable towers of smoke have thousands of people in southeast Australia in a chokehold.

Now, they’re facing a terrifying new threat. The uncontrollable brush fires are fueling “fire clouds”. 

Basically, the flames are so intense, they’re creating their own dangerous weather systems called pyrocumulonimbus.

NASA refers to them as ”the fire-breathing dragon of clouds.”

They’re like regular thunderstorms – but there’s no rain. It all gets evaporated by the intense heat. The lightning they create can spark new fires, and the strong winds make the fire larger, faster and more dangerous.

Credit: Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
How pyrocumulonimbus forms

“The storm sucks in more embers and flings them far ahead of the fire front so the fire advances in big jumps," University of New South Wales professor Jason Evans explained to BBC News in November.

"When you get a decent thunderstorm the rain comes from all directions. Now imagine the same for embers.”

That’s what the people across the state of Victoria, Australia are dealing with on the first day of a new decade.

Fires have been scorching parts of the country since September. According to CBS News, they’ve burned more than 12 million acres, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed at least 10 people.

Credit: AP
A burnt-out residence is seen in Sarsfield, East Gippsland, Victoria, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Australia's military will provide support for the response to Victoria's bushfires, as four people remain missing in the blazes. (James Ross/AAP Images via AP)

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