I am an airline pilot in Australia who flies throughout Australia almost every day of the week.

Although it is normally an amazing view from my “office” the terrible bushfires over the past month have caused severe devastation on an unprecedented level. Now a national emergency, the fires have estimated to have wiped out half a billion animals.

Pyrocumulus around Western Sydney, NSW

Thick, billowing smoke can be seen from hundreds of kilometers away, with reduced visibility in some airports slowing aircraft arrivals and in some cases diversions due to lack of visibility required for landing.

Over the past month or so, I have been taking photos of the pyrocumulus cloud formations which result from these bushfires as we fly past.

Smoke blowing 100’s of Kilometers out to sea towards New Zealand as we fly past Port Macquarie, NSW

Approaching Sydney from Uluru. Notice the distinction in layers between the smoke and cloud convection

This type of clouds occurs when the ash and other particles from smoke rise through the atmosphere through extreme convection from the fire below and reach the “convection level” which is where the air cannot hold any more humidity and the moisture in the atmosphere condenses and forms the beautiful clouds.

The particles and ash from these fires allow the moisture to condense more readily from increased condensation nuclei, which form these thick cloud shapes.

Pyrocumulus are very distinguishable, as they are extremely well defined with a dark, smoky bottom then transitioning to the white cloud through the convection layer.

All photos were taken on my phone – these pyrocumulonimbus clouds are about 100km away and with some much convection have pushed to over 40,000′ high