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What is a downburst? Meteorologist Trent Magill explains

Posted at 12:45 PM, Sep 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-07 09:09:16-04

Downbursts can cause incredible damage. Viewers sometimes confuse them with tornadoes, but they're completely different.

Any time you have a thunderstorm, you're going to have warm, moist air, and it's going to lift. Warm air is lighter than cold air. There's an updraft, and all of the dynamics inside a thunderstorm will create a stronger updraft, with winds shooting upwards from 50 to 175 miles per hour! Hail and heavy rain can follow. Cold air builds up inside the cell. Gravity wants to pull it down, and the updraft weakens.

RELATED: Cleveland Heights experienced microburst during recent storm

When the cold air collapses, that’s a downburst, and it can create damage. The difference between the damage caused by a tornado and damage from a downburst is that tornadoes spread havoc all over, where the effects of a downburst spread out from a central location. It's like dropping a water balloon, although sometimes a downburst can be dry.

If a downburst is less than 2.5 miles wide, it's a microburst. If it's larger than 2.5 miles wide, it's a macroburst.


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