Russian wildfires creating towering dirty clouds: Scientists

Russian wildfires creating towering dirty clouds: Scientists London: The vast plumes of smoke emanating from the forest fires in Russia are now creating so-called pyrocumulonimbus clouds which scientists say can trap airborne pollution and travel thousands of miles.

Satellite images of the smoke analysed by researchers at the University of Leicester's Earth Observation Science group have revealed that these dense towering clouds are reaching lower stratosphere that begins at an altitude of 36,000 feet (11,000 meters).

Pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which generally formed when intense heat from a fire pushes air high into atmosphere, can trap airborne pollution and transport it for thousands of miles, the researchers said.

"Using measurements from spaceborne instruments, we have been able to observe the vast extent of the smoke released from numerous wildfires in Western Russia," study member David Moore was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

"The pollutants contained within these smoke plumes can have a profound effect on both the local and regional air quality and atmospheric chemistry," he said.

Moore added: "A key aspect of our ongoing investigations will be to quantify the impact the fires have had on indirect greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon monoxide."

The satellite images were captured on Aug 4, 8 and 9 by equipment on the European satellite MetOp-A.

By comparing the each satellite image in true colour and false colour (in which the smoke shows up as yellow), the researchers could clearly see the extent of the smoke plumes and their encirclement of Moscow, they said.

Since the fires began the smoke plume has spread to cover an area that spans about 1,860 miles (3,000 km) from east to west, according to a NASA satellite image from Aug 4.

If the smoke were in the United States, it would extend approximately from San Francisco to Chicago, the scientists said.

According to reports, 520 wildfires were burning around central and western Russia on Wednesday.