Sonoran Desert had a Microburst Storm – What is a Microburst?

Explanations and definitions of Microbursts and Arizona Monsoon Microburst Weather. What is microburst weather?

Monsoon Microburst Storm
Microburst Storm Clouds Arizona

First lets get a brief definition of monsoon.  The season during which the southwest monsoon blows, commonly marked by heavy rains.

Storm Clouds during Monsoon
Monsoon storm in Southern Arizona July 2012

A Microburst Storm is an intense, localized downdraft of air that spreads on the ground causing rapid changes in wind direction and speed.   “downburst”

Microbursts are made of winds rushing down to the ground!  Wind speeds can be 50- 100 mph, damaging roofs, snapping trees, etc…

Microburst Storm Arizona Monsoon
microburst cloud moving quickly

A Microburst starts with a typical thunderstorm.  What is a thunderstorm?

A Thunderstorm works like an engine. It pulls moisture and air in and converts it to rain, then pushes wind and rain out. For the thunderstorm to continue;  it has to be TILTED. The top of the thunderstorm can NOT be directly over the bottom.

During the later months of monsoon season,  the steering flow in the upper-level of the atmosphere weakens. The UPPER level winds are what tilt storms, such as thunderstorms. The thunderstorm can still form but it will lose the tilt quickly!

Monsoon Microburst clouds
Arizona Microburst storm cloud

Microbursts can happen so quickly here in Arizona and this is one reason why so many warnings are placed regarding flash floods. These intense storms are capable of producing winds of more than 100 mph causing significant damage.

How long does a microburst last?  We have experienced these storms lasting as long as 30 minutes.  On average experts say Microbursts last about 15 minutes.  These quick hitting storms are extremely dangerous to aviation.

Monsoon storm in Arizona
Microburst rains

Microbursts can damage houses,  or flatten telephone poles by the dozens, cause power outages, even cars can be flipped over,  fences toppled, and trailer parks made to look like tornadoes hit them.

Microburst Storm in Arizona
Monsoon rains

On a positive note:  Microbursts replenish the desert with much needed rain!


Author: tjsgarden

We are a family that loves the Arizona Desert. A lot of research and team efforts go into our articles and photos. Come discover the beauty and mystery with us. Don't forget your sunscreen!

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