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Cloudburst in New Orleans

A cloudburst is an extreme amount of precipitation in a short period of time,[1] sometimes accompanied by hail and thunder, which is capable of creating flood conditions. Cloudbursts can quickly dump large amounts of water, e.g. 25 mm of the precipitation corresponds to 25,000 metric tons per square kilometre (1 inch corresponds to 72,300 short tons over one square mile). However, cloudbursts are infrequent as they occur only via orographic lift or occasionally when a warm air parcel mixes with cooler air, resulting in sudden condensation. At times, a large amount of runoff from higher elevations is mistakenly conflated with a cloudburst. The term "cloudburst" arose from the notion that clouds were akin to water balloons and could burst, resulting in rapid precipitation. Though this idea has since been disproven, the term remains in use.

Properties

Rainfall rate equal to or greater than 100 millimetres (3.9 in) per hour is a cloudburst.[2][3] However, different definitions are used, e.g. the Swedish weather service SMHI defines the corresponding Swedish term "skyfall" as 1 millimetre (0.039 in) per minute for short bursts and 50 millimetres (2.0 in) per hour for longer rainfalls. The associated convective cloud can extend up to a height of 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) above the ground.[4]

During a cloudburst, more than 20 millimetres (0.79 in) of rain may fall in a few minutes. The results of cloudbursts can be disastrous. Cloudbursts are also responsible for flash flood creation.

Rapid precipitation from cumulonimbus clouds is possible due to the Langmuir precipitation process in which large droplets can grow rapidly by coagulating with smaller droplets which fall down slowly. It is not essential that cloudbursts occur only when a cloud clashes with a solid body like a mountain, they can also occur when hot water vapor mingles into the cold resulting in sudden condensation.

Detection and forecasting

While satellites are extensively useful in detecting large-scale weather systems and rainfall, the resolution of the precipitation radars of these satellites are usually smaller than the area of cloudbursts, and hence they go undetected.[5] Weather forecast models also face a similar challenge in simulating the clouds at a high resolution. The skillful forecasting of rainfall in hilly regions remains challenging due to the uncertainties in the interaction between the moisture convergence and the hilly terrain, the cloud microphysics, and the heating-cooling mechanisms at different atmospheric levels.[5]

Record cloudbursts

Duration Rainfall Location Date
1 minute 1.5 inches (38.10 mm) Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe 26 November 1970
5.5 minutes 2.43 inches (61.72 mm) Port Bell, Panama 29 November 1911
15 minutes 7.8 inches (198.12 mm) Plumb Point, Jamaica 12 May 1916
20 minutes 8.1 inches (205.74 mm) Curtea de Argeș, Romania 7 July 1947
40 minutes 9.25 inches (234.95 mm) Guinea, Virginia, United States 24 August 1906
1 hour 9.84 inches (250 mm) Leh, Ladakh, India August 5, 2010 [6]
1 hour 5.67 inches (144 mm) Pune, Maharashtra, India September 29, 2010 [2]
1.5 hours 7.15 inches (182 mm) Pune, Maharashtra, India October 4, 2010 [2]
2 hours 3.94 inches (100 mm) Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand, India July 1, 2016
5 hours 15.35 inches (390 mm) La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina April 2, 2013 [7]
10 hours 57.00 inches (1,448 mm) Mumbai, Maharashtra, India July 26, 2005
13 hours 45.03 inches (1,144 mm) Foc-Foc, La Réunion January 8, 1966[8]
20 hours 91.69 inches (2,329 mm) Ganges Delta, Bangladesh/India January 8, 1966[9]
24 hours 73.62 inches (1,870 mm) Cilaos, La Réunion March, 1952

Locations

Asia

In the Indian subcontinent, a cloudburst usually occurs when a monsoon cloud drifts northwards, from the Bay of Bengal or Arabian Sea across the plains, then onto the Himalayas and bursts, bringing rainfall as high as 75 millimetres per hour.[10]

Bangladesh

India

Pakistan

Europe

Denmark

North America

Colorado Piedmont

The uplands adjacent to the Front Range of Colorado and the streams which drain the Front Range are subject to occasional cloudbursts and flash floods. This weather pattern is associated with upslope winds bringing moisture northwestward from the Gulf of Mexico.[49]

See also

References

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