New Mexico Wildfire Spawns Fire Cloud


A massive, early season wildfire that continues to burn in northern New Mexico generated a pyrocumulonimbus cloud.

The Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak fire continued to rage across northern New Mexico in mid-May 2022, entering its second month. On May 13, it was the largest fire burning in the United States and the second largest in New Mexico’s history.

The burned area spanned more than 270,000 acres east of Santa Fe and stretched 50 miles (80 kilometers) from its northern to southern perimeter in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. As of May 13, the fire was 29 percent contained, mostly on its southern perimeter, but continued to spread northeast. Hundreds of buildings and homes have been destroyed, and thousands of people were evacuated. Evacuation orders remained in effect in San Miguel, Moro, and Colfax counties, and have been expanded into the ski resort town of Angel Fire.

Periods of critical fire weather continued to challenge the 1,800 firefighters battling the blaze. Extremely low humidity and high winds helped spread the fire through dry grass, brush, and trees. Periodic gusts reaching 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour prevented aerial firefighting efforts, including water drops and the dispersal of flame retardant.

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Image via NASA Earth Observatory