In meteorology we divide clouds into 4 cloud families, which are at located at different heights of the troposphere, high, medium and low level.
Up until a few decades ago, microbursts were one of the leading causes of weather-related airplane crashes in the United States.
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In meteorology we divide clouds in 4 cloud families, which are at different heights
of the troposphere: High level clouds (altitudes of 5-13 km), medium level clouds (2-7 km), low level clouds
(0-2 km) and clouds with large vertical extending (0-13 km).
These cloud families are divided in 10 cloud genus:
All commercial aircraft and many commercial airports in the United States and around the world now have wind shear detection systems to alert aircraft to the dangers of microbursts. Thanks to better training and major advances in technology, the last commercial airplane crash in the U.S. attributed to a microburst was in 1994.
Relatively recent meteorological studies have confirmed the existence of microburst phenomenon around these dangerous weather phenomena are small scale intense downdrafts which, on reaching the surface, spread outward in all directions from the downdraft center. This causes the presence of both vertical and horizontal wind shears that can be extremely hazardous to all types and categories of aircraft, especially at low altitudes. Due to their small size, short life span, and the fact that they can occur over areas without surface precipitation, microbursts are not easily detectable using conventional weather radar or wind shear alert systems. The life cycle of a microburst is seldom longer than 15 minutes. An important consideration for pilots is the fact that the microburst intensifies for about 5 minutes after it strikes the ground. Parent clouds producing microburst activity can be any of the low or middle layer convective cloud types. Note, however, that microbursts commonly occur within the heavy rain portion of thunderstorms, and in much weaker, benign appearing convective cells. that have little or no precipitation reaching the ground.
1. Size. The microburst downdraft is typically less than 1 mile in diameter as it descends from the cloud base to about 1,000-3,000 feet above the ground. In the transition zone near the ground, the downdraft changes to a horizontal outflow that can extend to approximately 2 1/2 miles in diameter.
2. Intensity. The downdrafts can be as strong as 6,000 feet per minute. Horizontal winds near the surface can be as strong as 45 knots resulting in a 90 knot shear (headwind to tailwind change for a traversing aircraft) across the microburst. These strong horizontal winds occur within a few hundred feet of the ground.
3. Visual Signs. Microbursts can be found almost anywhere that there is convective activity. They may be embedded in heavy rain associated with a thunderstorm or in light rain in benign appearing virga. When there is little or no precipitation at the surface accompanying the microburst, a ring of blowing dust may be the only visual clue of its existence.
4. Duration. An individual microburst will seldom last longer than 15 minutes from the time it strikes the ground until dissipation. The horizontal winds continue to increase during the first 5 minutes with the maximum intensity winds lasting approximately 2-4 minutes. Sometimes microbursts are concentrated into a line structure, and under these conditions, activity may continue for as long as an hour. Once microburst activity starts, multiple microbursts in the same general area are not uncommon and should be expected.
Microburst wind shear may create a severe hazard for aircraft within 1,000 feet of the ground, particularly during the approach to landing and landing and take-off phases. The impact of a microburst on aircraft can be sever as the aircraft may encounter a headwind (performance increasing) followed by a downdraft and tailwind (both performance decreasing), possibly resulting in terrain impact.