Microbursts hit Green Country: How they form and why they can strike so quickly

TULSA, Okla. — Green Country has experienced a number of microbursts over the past couple of days. This is a common phenomenon in our summer storms when high winds occur as a storm collapses due to weak upper-level winds. A microburst is a type of downburst wind that only affects a small area over several miles.

On a hot and humid day where clouds and eventual storms form, the air rising into these cells begin to cool at the higher levels in the atmosphere. As water droplets form raindrops, it starts to drag that colder air to the ground. The bigger the storm, the colder the air aloft. As the storm loses its updraft amidst the falling rain, there is nothing to hold the cold air aloft.

It rushes to the ground thanks to gravity and the heavier nature of cold air. The downward moving air can hit the ground and spread outward at speeds as high as EF-1 tornado as that colder air rushes into less dense, hot air surrounding the storm. This is what creates a small circumference of high winds — a wet microburst. The winds lose strength as the colder air becomes more diffuse with distance.

Not all microbursts create damaging winds. In many cases, the gusts may not exceed 40 mph. However, these come with the little warning and can certainly pose a risk to life and property. Winds that exceed 58 mph are considered severe.

Watch the video to see several examples of a microburst and the tell-tale sign one is occurring. Be sure to follow the latest FOX23 forecast when summer storms may pose this threat again.