Sunday, April 20, 2014

Microbursts: Beautiful, Deadly Thunderstorm Winds (Storm Video!)

Now that we're getting into thunderstorm season, we not only have to worry about tornadoes in the United States, but something called microbursts.
That ball shaped feature below the dark clouds in
this photo is a microburst rapidy heading toward
the ground. whoever was underneat it probably
got incredible winds of over hurricane force.  

You might have heard of them, those awful windstorms in thunderstorms. The name"microburst" sounds innocuous enough, like maybe a small balloon popping.

But microbursts winds in worst case scenarios can reach 150 mph and cause worse damage than many tornadoes.

"Dry microbursts" common in the western United States, happen when rain falls into warm, dry air. The dry air becomes much more dense as it cools, so it sinks really, really fast to the ground, and you get a microburst.

"Wet microbursts" more common in the east, come when the up and down motion in a bad thunderstorm combines with torrential rain and hail dragging air at high speeds to the surface.

Microbursts are especially dangerous to aircraft, because they an slap planes to the ground or cause turbulence that's so bad they crash.

Pictures and videos of microbursts can be gorgeous, especially with today's easy time lapse technology.

Here's one near Chandler, Arizona in 2013. Note how you can see the spot in the clouds from where the violent downdraft comes:




Here's a neat microburst time lapse in 2011, near the Abilene, Texas airport. Note how violently the burst of falling air seems. That's why these are so dangerous for planes:





Finally, here's what it looks like when you get caught in one on the ground.  This is a 2011 wet microburst in Ocean City, New Jersey. Scary!




Finally, here's a pretty dramatic wet microburst I filmed in Shelburne, Vermont in August, 2011. I was in the right place at the right time. Just a mile either way up the road, there was no wind damage. Proves that microbursts are highly local

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