Published: 2008-05-25 10:56:23
Updated: 2008-05-25 10:56:23
Posted May 25, 2008
By Stephen Hill
MIKE MOSS SAYS: Stephen, A downdraft is kind of a generic term describing a flow or current of air down toward the ground, usually within a convective cloud like a towering cumulus or cumulonimbus. Downdrafts can be weak or strong and may or may not lead to especially high winds at the surface. A microburst is a strong wind that occurs due to intense downdrafts in a thunderstorm striking the ground and spreading outward at speeds sufficient to cause damage or interfere with aviation, with the affected area coveraing a diameter of 2.5 miles or less. If the area affected by damaging winds has a greater span than 2.5 miles, it may be referred to as a macroburst. In either case a more generic term you may sometimes hear for damaging winds resulting from the surface impact of a thunderstorm downdraft is "downburst."
As for the storm chasing question, you might like to consider taking a Skywarn spotter course offered by the National Weather Service. A schedule of courses and contact information is available at
Beyond that, there are companies that specialize now in storm chasing vacations that you can locate via a web search.