KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: ‘Tis the season for downbursts

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Last week we had a feature clearly visible on our Hutchinson SkyView camera. It was a downburst! During our late summer months around Kansas, we get into the downburst season.

It takes a strong updraft to support a thunderstorm. Within a storm, tiny droplets and hail are suspended in the upper levels.

When evaporational cooling takes place, the air within the storm sinks. This weakens the updraft. Just like a toilet flushing, the thunderstorm can no longer support itself and it collapses. In summer, our upper level wind flow is typically weaker. As this occurs, the core of the storm hits the ground at a fast rate of speed and spreads out in all directions.

This was documented in these two photos, using a doppler radar function called Echo Tops. Within the span of about 10 minutes, you can see the top of this storm drop about 10-thousand feet, a sign a downburst is happening!

In the picture posted below, you can see where the air and rain hit the ground and curves back up to the sky! I have attached the doppler radar reflectivity image around this time.

Winds can be clocked at over 100 MPH in a downburst situation, uprooting trees. Damage will be localized but noticeably different than a tornado. Damage from a tornado will exhibit swirl patterns. A downburst will show debris laying flat from a center point where the storm collapsed.

Here is what a couple of viewers had to say about the weather this evening and the brief temperature drop this downburst produced:

Precipitation can evaporate making this a dry downburst. But, if water accompanies the crash, if you will, then it will be a wet downburst.

If this downburst is less than 2.5 miles, it is called a microburst. If it is greater than 2.5 miles, it will be classified as a microburst.

A downburst can be catastrophic for aircraft. Several aircraft crashed in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of downbursts. This is why when you drive out to southwest Sedgwick County and see our Terminal Doppler Weather Radar. This was put into effect to monitor conditions close to Eisenhower National Airport.

This is why we need to take all severe thunderstorm warnings seriously. Damage from a downburst in summer can be just as disastrous as a tornado where life and property are at risk.

Remember, the Storm Track 3 weather team will be here for you, keeping you ahead of the storm on-air and online at ksn.com. If you have not done so, download our free KSN Storm Track 3 weather app. You will be alerted when a dangerous storm is in close proximity to your and your family’s location.

–Chief Meteorologist Lisa Teachman

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