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Unit 3: Topography & Fire Behavior

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Orographic Thunderstorms

In the graphics below, we have illustrated the formation of orographic thunderstorms. Orographic means "of or relating to mountains." Orographic lifting produces thunderstorms when a mass of moist, unstable air is forced aloft by winds as it moves across a prominent mountain range. As the air is lifted, it cools and condenses into clouds. A rapid buildup of cumulus occurs that sometimes reaches the thunderstorm stage. These "thunderheads," as they are called, usually remain stationary; however, they can move after development. There is always the danger that downdraft winds from the thunderhead could cause strong gusty winds on your fire.

Air forced to rise over mountains.

Precipitation develops.

Thunderstorms continue to redevelop.

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, October 25). Unit 3: Topography & Fire Behavior. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License