Hawaiian Cane Fields Burning

August 08, 2001


Provided by: Gerald Krulik
Summary authors & editors: Gerald Krulik; Martin Ruzek

What at first appears to be a mushroom cloud from a bomb blast is actually a view of massive agricultural burning of sugar cane fields on the island of Maui in Hawaii. The flat top of the smoke column is due to an atmospheric condition called a temperature inversion, where temperature begins to increase rather than decrease with height. The hot air and smoke from the fires rise readily through the lower cooler air, but stop abruptly when the rising pollutants are no longer less dense than the overlying air. Large scale biomass burning is not contained to third world countries, and the burning of cane fields and cane residue on Maui remains a contentious issue.

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