LIDAR and Microbursts

LIDAR and Microburst


Microburst, also known as downburst, is an invisible, small, extremely intense downdraft that descends to the ground resulting in a strong wind divergence. Microburst is less than 4 kilometers in width, lasting for 5 to 15 minutes and producing winds up to 100 miles per hour.

An aircraft approaching into a microburst. (Picture embedded from Wikipedia)

How Microbursts are formed

  • As rain water reaches the air below the rain cloud it evaporates and mix with dry air. This cold evaporated steam (air) travels downwards faster than normal air and hits the earth making microburst.
  • Another method of microbust formation is when the earth get warm the hot air ascends rapidly and the vacuum formed at the surface of the earth is filled with cool air travelling downwards at a high velocity.

Danger to Aviation

Microburst pushes aircraft towards the ground with a strong force. Thus, approaching and landing aircraft are at danger as they will not have enough altitude before emerging out of wind gush.

Aviation Accidents (NTSB, 20093)

  • Eastern Airlines Flight 66 in 1975
  • Pan Am Flight 759 in 1982
  • Delta Air Lines Flight 191 in 1985
  • Martinair Flight 495 in 1992
  • USAir Flight 1016 in 1994
  • Air France Flight 358 in 2005

Delta Airlines Flight 191 crashed - Microburst (Video embedded from Youtube)

Major airport with danger of microbursts (FAA, 20072)

  • Las Vegas
  • Denver
  • Phoenix
  • Salt Lake City.

Microburst Detection


Light Detecting and Ranging (LIDAR) is a modern equipment developed in 2007. LIDAR can detect all forms of identified wind shear around airports (FAA, 20072).

2. Air Traffic System (Dance & Potts, 20021)

Doppler RADAR has been used in the airport with microburst danger. ATC keeps on monitoring the airport conditions using this equipment and inform all the aircraft around the airport.

1. DANCE S & POTTS R (2002). Microburst detection using agent networks. AMS Journals Online 2002, vol.19, pp.5.
2. FAA (2007). FAA testing new microburst detection system in Las Vegas. The Weekly of Business Aviation, 2007, Dec 18
3. NTSB (2009). Aviation accident investigation reports. Retrieved from, on 27 February 2009.

Knowledge Management Space

Microburst, in Wikipedia
The entry in Wikipedia offers more information about this weather phenomenon.

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