Rare Heat Burst in Wichita Kansas

The year 2011 has been filled with unusual weather events across these United States. We have seen a historical blizzard, incredible flooding, record breaking heat and some of the most destructive and deadliest tornadoes ever seen. This past week the city of Wichita, Kansas experienced a very rare weather event known as a "heat burst."

Consider the following from Jason Samenow's Washington Post Capital Weather Gang blog:

Since June began, no doubt the 1400-plus new heat records set across the U.S. have impressed. But consider the following: between midnight and 1 a.m. Thursday morning, the temperature in Wichita, Kansas spiked from 81 and 101 degrees. Yes- the temperature ROSE 20 degrees in one hour in the middle of the night, passing the century mark. To the north, across the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest, there were some remarkable - though not nearly as dramatic - temperature declines.

What happened in Wichita is known as a heat burst, a relatively rare phenomenon. At the website TheWeatherPrediction.com, meteorologist Jeff Haby describes what a heat burst is and how it develops. Here’s a short excerpt that captures the essence of it:

A heat burst is a downdraft of hot and dry air that typically occurs in the evening or overnight hours. . . . Heat bursts usually happen in the evening or at night after thunderstorms are ending. Thus, a thunderstorm has a vital role. Two other characteristics are that the air must start its descent from fairly high up and the environmental air aloft needs to be very dry.

More from The Wichita Eagle:

Wind speeds of nearly 50 mph accompanied the heat burst in places.

Those winds may have been responsible for outages that knocked out power to nearly 3,000 Westar Energy customers early Thursday morning.

Power was knocked out to nearly 1,300 customers in and around Clearwater just before 12:30 a.m. Another 1,575 customers in downtown Wichita and east of downtown lost power at 12:54 a.m., Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig said.

The Clearwater outage lasted for 26 minutes, Penzig said. Power was restored to most downtown Wichita customers at about 2 a.m., though areas near downtown were without power for another couple of hours.

The local NBC affiliate gave the official account of a surge of 17 degrees in a twenty minute period:

Last night Wichita experienced a very rare weather phenomenon known as a “Heat Burst.” At 12:22 a.m. the temperature at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport was 85 degrees. At 12:44 the temperature spiked to 102 degrees. This was a 17 degree increase in only 20 minutes. Winds also gusted between 50 and 60 MPH. The heat burst winds and temperatures rapidly dissipated as they spread across Sedgwick and Southern Butler Counties.

We are just past the half way mark of 2011 and just beginning what is expected to be a very active hurricane season. Time for more serious discussions on climate change?

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One of the main reasons the US has no effective consideration of, or approach to, climate change policy matters. Wonder if any of the Kochies paid attention to the heat burst?

having their home office there but good point. I imagine the only way they paid any attention was if they happened to suffer some damage from the wind or power outages that accompanied the heat burst.

I had never heard of this particular phenomenon before I saw the news on the one in Wichita. Wikipedia has only thirteen incidences going back to 1909. Odd think is that of those thirteen, eight have occurred since 2004 with four being recorded in the year 2008.


That's an interesting increase in the pattern. I wonder what the hurricane season will bring...?

Thanks for catching that and bringing it to our attention. :)