Thursday, July 21, 2016

Wild Phoenix Microburst Caught On Film

Microburst in Phoenix earlier this week. Photo credit
Jerry Ferguson/Bruce Haffner/Andrew Park.  
It's monsoon season in the Desert Southwest, that time of year when moisture from either the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean off of Mexico is able to sneak into that normally dry part of the nation.

The result is thunderstorms, which erupt during the afternoons and evenings in the desert heat.

These storms can be whoppers, setting off blinding haboobs, which are waves of dense blowing dust, or microburst, which send great gushes of wind and rain to the ground.

There was a doozy of one in Phoenix the other day. (Video of it at the bottom of this post. The first of is what it looked like from outside it, the next, what it looked like right inside it.)

Photos of it look like the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb, but rather than the force of the explosion rocketing upward, it was a great gush of rain and wind slamming to the ground.

As the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang notes, microbursts are created by the drag that's caused by falling rain and hail, along with evaporation.

When water evaporates, it cools the air, which makes it more dense and accelerates its travel toward the ground within a thunderstorm.

Microbursts can be as dangerous as tornadoes.  When they hit the ground, the wind spreads out from the point of impact. Near that point of impact, microbursts have been known to create wind gusts as high as 150 mph.

There were microbursts in New England and southern Quebec Monday that brought winds estimated up to 80 mph. One of these blew roofs off houses in southern Quebec. 

Microbursts are particularly dangerous for planes, and pilots steer clear. You can imagine what a big gush of air blasting downward could do with a plane. There have been incidents of nasty crashes because of these. Most of the time, airports and pilots see microbursts coming and either avoid them or don't try to land or take off near them.

The first video below was taken near or at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Note if you can the fact that some planes continue to taxi, but none take off once the microburst gets  close to the tarmacs.

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