National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Heat Burst Impacts Central Kansas

June 3-4th, 2014


A heat burst impacted many areas of central Kansas late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.  Locations from Hays, Kansas to Salina, Kansas recorded the heat burst on their automated weather equipment.  Other locations that recorded the heat burst included Russell, Kansas and Ellsworth, Kansas.  Temperatures across the area rose 5 to 15 degrees as a result of the heat burst and winds gusted to 40-50 mph. At Ellsworth, 5-minute observations were available that show the heat burst (graph below). 


A heat burst is signified by a rise in the temperature, a drop in the dew point (and associated relative humidity) and strong gusty winds. 




Details from various central Kansas locations


  Peak Temperature Peak Wind
Hays 99 61 mph
Russell 94 58 mph
Ellsworth 97 57 mph
Salina 96 43 mph


What causes a heat burst?

There are two main atmospheric ingredients that are necessary for a heat burst to occur. The first is a dissipating thunderstorm or shower. Second, the mid-level atmospheric environment must be hot and dry, combined with a shallow surface inversion. Thunderstorms develop when moist, unstable air is given a nudge upward. Moisture in the cloud condenses and later falls as precipitation. Once the thunderstorm loses its updraft, the thunderstorm is said to be downdraft dominated.  When this occurs with a hot and dry atmospheric mid-level in place, the moisture associated with the downdraft evaporates and initially cools this layer, increasing its rate of descent toward the surface. However, the descending air will stop cooling once all the moisture has evaporated, therefore causing adiabatic (compressional) warming and mixing of the warm(inversion) layer. The heat burst will occur once the warm and dry air descends to the surface.