Scientists have only recently discovered the phenomenon of the fire tornado that can occur in wildfires. Just over 10 years ago researchers were baffled by the extent of destruction to parts of the Australian capital Canberra during a bushfire.
On investigation, the scientists, led by Dr Jason Sharples of the School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences at UNSW Canberra, discovered an intense pyro-convective cell had developed a tornado. The paper, published in Natural Hazards, said it was the first confirmed pyro-tornadogenesis in Australia.
They charted the formation, evolution and decay of the tornado, which was estimated to have been of at least F2 intensity, highlighting a process that can significantly increase the damage of a wildfire event.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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