After-midnight ‘heat burst’ surprises Kansans

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

Wichita, Kan., residents are still reeling from a bizarre weather system that spiked temperatures 20 degrees in a matter of minutes in the early hours of Thursday morning.

KSN Channel 3's meteorologist JD Rudd explained the causes of the rare nighttime temperature spike, known as a "heat burst." First, winds gusted up to 69 miles per hour at around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, when temperatures were still in the 80s. At 12:22 a.m., temperatures were at 85 degrees in the region. Less than 20 minutes later, the temperature spiked to 102 degrees, and winds continued to gust at about 50 miles per hour.

By 3:00 a.m., the temperatures had again fallen and the winds stopped.

Heat bursts are a very rare phenomenon, meteorologists told The Wichita Eagle.

They're caused by storms "collapsing" onto the strong winds that are keeping them up. When rain falls onto very dry air, the air begins to drop, and as the air mass drops it gets hotter. When the air hits the ground it rapidly spreads out, causing gusting winds.

"You have to have perfect conditions ... in order to get these things," National Weather Service meteorologist Chance Hayes told the paper.

The Wichita area received almost no rainfall in May, so conditions were certainly dry enough for a heat burst to happen.

Local news channel KMBC explains the event in the video below:

(Temperatures at 1:00 am in Wichita: KSN)

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