The Blowup

Popular Science - - FEATURES -

Ex­perts ex­pected the fire to die down with the cool night air. In­stead, it flared into an inferno. Here’s the likely cul­prit.

A) The Tub Spills

At night, cool dense air pools in the Valles Grande caldera like wa­ter fill­ing a 13-mile bath­tub. When it sloshes over, it cre­ates 26-foot-per-sec­ond winds that fly down­canyon and strike the wild­fire’s south­ern flank.

B) Canyon Surf

As they squeeze through the canyons ra­di­at­ing from the caldera, the winds gain speed, then rise above the ground and come crash­ing back like churn­ing ocean waves.

C) Fire Ex­plodes

As the wind ig­nites the blaze, it drives the fire for­ward in 35-foot flames that look like rolling bar­rels of fire.

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