Downburst Climatology

Winds that shift suddenly are a significant hazard for wildland fire fighters. They can cause the fire to quickly change direction, threatening people and equipment in their path. One cause of wind shifts is downdrafts from thunderstorms, which spread out as they reach the ground. Particularly intense winds resulting from a downdraft are called downbursts. The possible energy in a downburst or downdraft can be estimated using a quantity called downdraft maximum available potential energy, or more simply, DMAPE. Potter and Hernandez (2017) describes the limitations and interpretation of DMAPE in more detail. This atlas contains maps based on Potter and Hernandez (2017) showing monthly and seasonal variability in downdraft potential, as measured by DMAPE. 

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Tools are provided for research purposes only, and may not accurately reflect what may happen due to numerous reasons. Data are provisional; use at own risk.

Link to interactive map


All others may contact:  Dr. Brian Potter, US Forest Service


This work was supported by funds from the US Forest Service National Fire Plan. Additional support was provided through the Hispanic National Intern Program managed by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.