Wildfire smoke to circle planet and return to Australia, NASA says

The bushfire as captured by Trent Lawsone as it approached the town of Parndarna Kangaroo Island

The bushfire as captured by Trent Lawsone as it approached the town of Parndarna Kangaroo Island

The agency did not give an estimated date for when the smoke is expected to return, but did say that as of January 8, the smoke was crossing South America.

The US agency said satellites have been monitoring the movement of the smoke high in the atmosphere as it swirled east towards South America and beyond.

Australia has been devastated by record-breaking wildfires that have raged since their annual fire season began in September.

The smoke from Australia's fires is so vast that fumes from the early weeks of the crisis will survive a journey around the globe and are expected to return to the country's skies from the west, according to Nasa. The state has been spared the worst of the bushfires.

Meanwhile, NASA said the smoke has already had a "dramatic impact" on New Zealand and "causing severe air quality issues across the county and visibly darkening mountaintop snow".

The storm affected several states in the country-including South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, northern Territory and Western Australia-brining visibility down in many areas, ABC News reported.

NASA said these storms "provide a pathway for smoke to reach the stratosphere more than (16 kilometres) in altitude".

These clouds, which act like thunderstorms but do not have precipitation, have formed due to the "searing heat combined with historic dryness" and the "uplift of ash, smoke, and burning material via super-heated updrafts", according to the space agency.

These fire-induced thunderstorms have pushed the smoke to the stratosphere, allowing it to travel much further and affect atmospheric conditions around the world.

"By our measures, this is the most extreme pyrocumulonimbus storm outbreak in Australia", Nasa quoted Dr Mike Fromm and his colleagues from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington as saying.

"The UV index has a characteristic that is particularly well suited for identifying and tracking smoke from pyroCb events: the higher the smoke plume, the larger the aerosol index value", Seftor said.

Two instruments aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Nasa's Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite provided data on the smoke cloud.

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