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WeatherTalk: A Tuesday evening heat burst is explained

The heat burst produced hot, dry, gusty winds.

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FARGO — Tuesday evening shortly before 9 p.m., a small area of North Dakota southwest of Fargo experienced a meteorological phenomenon known as a heat burst. A weak shower near Lisbon, North Dakota, produced a rain shaft which dried up before reaching the ground. The air in this downdraft was heated as it fell by atmospheric compression. This process also dried the air considerably. As the air reached the ground, it fanned out over an area of Ransom and northern Richland counties with wind gusting to around 20-30 mph, a temperature which warmed by about 10 degrees to around 90, and a noticeable drop in humidity.

As heat bursts go, this one was relatively weak. In more extreme cases when the drying downdraft is from a much taller thunderstorm, there have been cases of temperatures warming to well over 100 degrees in the middle of the night accompanied by desert-dry air and damaging wind gusts.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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