Heat Bursts - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Heat Bursts

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A crazy and rare weather occurrence is the heat burst.  Heat bursts can occur almost anywhere, but are more common east of the Rockies.  They usually happen during the middle of the night in late Spring or Summer.

When air mass thunderstorms are on going and darkness falls, a loss of daytime heating occurs and the storm starts to decay.  Although the heat burst is not completely understood, we believe that when a thunderstorms updraft is cut off, rain is suspended in the air,  gravity soon takes over and the rain starts to fall to the ground.  As the rain falls through a very dry layer aloft, latent heat absorption occurs and the parcel of air cools.  The precipitation has now evaporated and the air is now denser than its surrounding air and it starts to descend rapidly toward the ground.  The laws of physics say that as the air descends, it warms at a dry adiabatic lapse rate.  The air is now moving at an extreme rate of speed toward the earth.  The dry warm air hits the ground and warms the ground substantially.

On June 11, 2010, a heat burst occurred in Harper County, Oklahoma.  At around 3 in the morning, a thunderstorm decayed and caused a heat burst.  The winds quickly gusted to near 60 mph and the temperatures soared from 71 degrees to near 85 degrees!  The dew points also sank nearly 20 degrees.  On May 22, 1996, Chickasha, Oklahoma was hit by a heat burst and the temperature early in the morning went from 87 degrees to 102 degrees in nearly 25 minutes!  There was also damage reported when the wind gusted to 95 mph!

Heat bursts are very rare and also hard to forecast, but when they occur they can really be something to marvel.