DENVER (CBS4) – A rare heat burst was documented overnight on the plains of northeast Colorado. In the small town of Yuma the temperature jumped 20 degrees in two hours then fell 24 degrees in just one hour.
According to the Colorado Climate Center a weather station in nearby Kirk also recorded the heat burst. And though not as dramatic the temperature in Akron, about 30 miles west of Yuma, also rose to 80 degrees just before 4 am.
The heatburst showed up beautifully in the CoAgMET observations at both Yuma and Kirk. A rude awakening to have the temperature jump to 87F at 4:30am! #cowx https://t.co/PtWS49UcCG pic.twitter.com/inYXdlNto6
— ColoClimateCenter (@ColoradoClimate) July 8, 2020
A heat burst occurs when a decaying thunderstorm interacts with a pocket of very dry air aloft. Any rain left in the thunderstorm will evaporate as it falls into the dry air. Because evaporation is a cooling process this creates a pocket of colder air in the atmosphere.
Physics will bring that colder pocket of air to the ground because it has a higher density than the warmer air surrounding it. As it plunges toward Earth it will warm at a rate of 10°C for every 1,000 meters of descent, something we call adiabatic warming in Meteorology.
Adiabatic means a process with no exchange of heat. In this case the air is warming because it is being compressed on its descent, not because of the warmer air it is passing through on the way down. The opposite happens when air is forced to rise. It will cool because of expansion.
Depending on how far the air has to fall it can warm by several degrees. In the case of Yuma this morning the air warmed 20 degrees.
The same area recorded a heat burst on June 13, 2018 and on July 21, 2014. Ironically the temperatures were similar in both instances with a roughly 20 degree rise recorded.
One of the most famous heat bursts ever recorded happened on June 9, 2011 in Kansas, when the temperature in Wichita rose to over 100 degrees during the middle of the night. Click here to read about it.