Severe Weather Extra: Microburst or Macroburst

Weather Specials

This phenomenon is often confused for a tornado

(WYTV) – Many times during severe weather season, we get storm damage that is comparable to a tornado. It might’ve been a microburst or macroburst.

They are the same thing, but a microburst is smaller, with 2.5 miles or less in damage. A macroburst has a larger damage radius. For this conversation, we’ll refer to it as a microburst.

They form in storm clouds that build to the upper levels of the atmosphere. Strong updrafts develop and the cloud builds. As rain falls, it causes colder air to be drawn into the mid-level of the cloud.

Cold air is denser, or heavier. Once the air cools enough, it free falls down to the surface and fans out in all directions at 90° angles from the center.

These microbursts are strong enough to flip over cars and even railroad cars. You can see why people confuse them for tornadoes.

These microbursts are especially dangerous for airplanes. Caught under a microburst, a plane could experience a rapid drop in altitude.

The National Weather Service will analyze the storm damage to determine if it was a microburst or a tornado. They look at how the trees are toppled to determine if there was rotation (tornado) or 90° damage. (microburst).

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