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Fighter jet captures dramatic 'fire clouds' over California wildfires

Fighter jet captures dramatic 'fire clouds' over California wildfires
In this Aug. 2 image of the California-Oregon border from NASA's Terra satellite, red outlines show where high surface temperatures associated with active burning were detected. The image also shows smoke plumes blossoming into towering pyrocumulus clouds. (Jeff Schmaltz / NASA)

New photographs taken from a fighter jet above massive wildfires raging along the California-Oregon border show the formation of so-called "fire clouds," which can introduce pollution and smoke into the atmosphere.

The camera of an Oregon Air National Guard F-15C captured dramatic images of a developing "fire cloud," also known as pyrocumulus clouds, on July 31 over the state's Gulch fire.

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The fire is a part of the Beaver Complex fire -- made up of two blazes, the Salt Creek and Gulch fires -- which saw the "most dramatic" change as billowing pillars of smoke formed into fire clouds, according to NASA, which posted the photos.

The clouds, which NASA described as "tall, cauliflower-shaped," formed after heat from the fire forced the air to rise.

"Fire clouds" are closely monitored by scientists because the large amount of smoke and pollutants they contain can affect air quality.

Thunderstorm-producing pyrocumulonimbus clouds can also form from the weather phenomena, scientists say.

The Beaver Complex fire started July 31 in Oregon and rapidly moved southeast into California.

The fires, which are 42% contained, have consumed at least 35,000 acres as of Wednesday.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow  @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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