An Australian pyro-tornadogenesis event
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- McRae, R.H.D., Sharples, J.J., Wilkes, S.R. et al. Nat Hazards (2013) 65: 1801. doi:10.1007/s11069-012-0443-7
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On 18 January 2003, fires had a devastating impact on Australia’s capital, Canberra. A series of reviews and scientific studies have examined the events of that day and indicate that the worst impacts were due to a series of violent pyro-convective events and resultant pyro-cumulonmibi. These coupled fire–atmosphere events are much more energetic than normal fires. In one instance, an intense pyro-convective cell developed a tornado. We demonstrate that this was indeed a tornado, the first confirmed pyro-tornadogenesis in Australia, and not a fire whirl. Here, we discuss aspects of 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.