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Climate and Environment

Extremely High Temps Could Be Recipe For — Gulp — A Fire Cloud

A massive gray and white cloud rises from the hills spreading ash near a bright red firetruck. One fighter, in a yellow shirt and dark overalls, stands to the right. A single powerline pole is at the left.
A firefighter walks back to his truck near a pyrocumulus ash plume during the 2020 Apple fire near Banning.
AFP via Getty Images)
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Southern California's inland valleys, mountains and deserts can expect elevated fire weather conditions Saturday through Wednesday, with high temperatures and relatively low humidity.

National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet says there's also potential for what's called "large plume growth." That can happen when a fire starts in a really hot atmosphere, and a super-heated column of air allows a fire cloud, known as a pyrocumulus cloud, to form.

Here's Sweet explaining what that looks like:

"There's a column of very warm to hot air that is rising up from the fire and if that does happen then it causes the fire to grow very very quickly because it can create its own weather, it can create its own wind."
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Here's one forming during the 2018 Cranston Fire in the San Bernardino National Forest near Idyllwild:

When this happens, the cloud can generate lightning that could spark additional fires, and it also pushes embers far outside of the burn area, creating even more issues.

This is why we wrote a story in 2018 called: Fire Clouds Are As Terrifying As They Sound.

An excessive heat watch is in effect for the Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley, and inland mountains from Sunday morning through Monday evening. Temperatures could get as high as 110 degrees during the day and likely won't cool down below 80 degrees in the evening.

What questions do you have about Southern California?