What is a microburst?

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WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) — Microbursts—like one in West Springfield last week that caused major tree damage—are frequent wind phenomena. So, what is a microburst, and how is that different from straight-line winds or even a tornado?

The most important thing to remember about microbursts is how isolated and concentrated the damage that results is. This type of downburst is typically smaller than a few miles across and are short-lived outward bursts of strong winds. Wind speeds can sometimes exceed 100 miles per hour which is comparable to an EF1 tornado.

Straight-line wind is just a general term used to describe damaging wind from a thunderstorm that is not associated with rotation. Straight-line wind damage happens when a thunderstorm downdraft hits the ground and flows outward, typically along a line of thunderstorms.

A tornado is obviously the most destructive. It is a violently rotating column of air touching the ground. It is considered a funnel cloud if it does not touch all the way to the ground. Winds of a tornado can exceed 300 miles per hour, and the damage path can be over a mile wide and 50 miles long. 

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