For years, Naval Research Laboratory meteorologist David Peterson has been obsessed with one of Earth’s rarest atmospheric spectacles: thunderclouds formed by raging wildfires. Last week, he became one of the only people on Earth to fly straight through one.
Peterson is the lead forecaster for Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality (FIREX-AQ), a joint NASA and NOAA-led field campaign that’s spending the summer intensively studying wildfire smoke from the ground, the air, and satellites. On August 8, he rode shotgun as NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft passed directly through an anvil cloud as it was developing over the 45,000-acre Williams Flats fire currently burning in the Pacific Northwest.
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