NWC REU 2017
May 22 - July 28



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Statistical Analysis of Heatburst Events Across Oklahoma From 1997-2016

Robert Van Kleeck and Brad Illston


What is already known:

  • Heatbursts occur quite often across Oklahoma in the late spring and early summer, and have been known to cause millions of dollars in damage.
  • Previous studies identified heatbursts over the Oklahoma Mesonet using a simple three-step threshold, along with subsequent manual analysis to eliminate drylines and other undesirable thermodynamic perturbations.

What this study adds:

  • Starting with a slightly modified three-step threshold, a Dew Point Depression Ratio (DPDR) was used to automatically isolate heatburst events with no need for manual inspection of each detection.
  • Comparison of detections to manual analysis shows that the ratios are highly accurate at sequestering heatbursts.


Heatbursts are a surface phenomenon characterized by sudden increases in temperatures, winds, and decreases in dew point temperature. While traditionally considered a rare phenomenon, they occur quite commonly over the Midwestern states, and the associated winds have caused millions of dollars of damage in the past. Limited temporal and spatial coverage of weather stations makes studying heatbursts difficult, but the Oklahoma Mesonet offers a solution with 5-minute observations across over 100 locations for 20 years. Archived data from the Oklahoma Mesonet and a set of predetermined metrics identified heatbursts over the entire archive, while drylines and other events were automatically filtered out. This work extended previous work done by (McPherson et al. 2011) and (Lane, 2000) by using dew point depressions and Dew Point Depression Ratios. These updated metrics uncovered 600 heatburst detections, with significant temporal similarities to the results from previous manual inspection studies.

Full Paper [PDF]