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Fire clouds

Photographer David Peterson, US Naval Research Laboratory

THIS sinister photo shows the sun setting through thick smoke from the massive Williams Flats wildfire in the east of Washington state. As well as the grey smoke, which is what makes the sun look strange, there are massive white clouds called pyrocumulonimbus caused by the fire’s heat.

The image was captured by meteorologist David Peterson from a NASA research plane. There are very few photos of these clouds, says Peterson, and hardly any from above. His was taken at 8 pm on 8 August from a height of 9 kilometres. …

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