You may have heard the terms “downburst,” “microburst,” and “macroburst” before, but what are they?
The National Weather Service said that a downburst is a strong, downward-moving current of air known as a downdraft that leads to damaging winds on or near the ground. Microburst and macroburst describe the downburst’s size.
Microbursts have damaging winds that extend two and half miles or less and can be as high as 168 mph (!) and last five to 15 minutes.
Macrobursts have damaging winds that extend more than two and half miles and can be as high as 134 mph, often causing widespread, tornado-like damage in the process. They last five to 30 minutes.
Downbursts are formed when cold air falls from the middle and upper sections of a thunderstorm at speeds of less than 20 mph. As this cold air hits the earth, it rolls much the same way that water does as a boat moves through it. This rolling compresses air and increases wind speed.
Downbursts are often mistaken for tornadoes, but occur much more frequently than tornadoes do. For every tornado there are about 10 downburst damage reports, National Weather Service said