A shelf cloud along the leading edge of a derecho photographed in Minnesota

A derecho (from Spanish: "derecho" meaning "straight") is a widespread and long-lived, violent convectively induced straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms in the form of a squall line usually taking the form of a bow echo. Derechos blow in the direction of movement of their associated storms, similar to a gust front, except that the wind is sustained and generally increases in strength behind the "gust" front. A warm weather phenomenon, derechos occur mostly in summer, especially June and July in the Northern Hemisphere. They can occur at any time of the year and occur as frequently at night as in the daylight hours.



The traditional criteria that distinguish a derecho from a severe thunderstorm are sustained winds of 58 mi/h (50 kt or 93 km/h) during the storm (as opposed to gusts), high or rapidly increasing forward speed, and geographic extent (typically 250 nautical miles [280 mi or 460 km] long).[1] In addition, they have a distinctive appearance on radar (bow echo); several unique features, such as the rear inflow notch and bookend vortex, and usually manifest two or more downbursts.

Although these storms most commonly occur in North America, derechos can occur elsewhere in the world, although infrequently. Outside North America they are sometimes called by different names. For example, in Bangladesh and adjacent portions of India, a type of storm known as a "Nor'wester" can be a progressive derecho.[2]


Derecho comes from the Spanish word for "straight".[3] The word was first used in the American Meteorological Journal in 1888 by Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs in a paper describing the phenomenon and based on a significant derecho event that crossed Iowa on 31 July 1877.


DECCA radar recorded a bow echo associated with deadly winds in the Cleveland area.

Derechos come from a band of thunderstorms that are bow- or spearhead-shaped on radar, and hence are also called a bow echo or spearhead radar echo. The size of the bow may vary, and the storms associated with the bow may die and redevelop. Winds in a derecho can be enhanced by downburst clusters embedded inside the storm. These straight-line winds can exceed 100 mi/h (160 km/h) (in some cases, sustained wind) in these clusters and straight-line wind gusts of up to 200 mi/h (320 km/h) are possible in the most extreme cases.[citation needed] Tornadoes sometimes form within derecho events, although such events are often difficult to confirm due to the additional damage caused by straight-line winds in the immediate area.

On the other hand, with the average tornado in the United States and Canada rating in the low end of the F/EF1 classification at 85 to 100 mi/h peak winds and most or all of the rest of the world even lower, derechoes tend to deliver the vast majority of extreme wind over much of the territory in which they occur.[citation needed] Data compiled by the United States' National Weather Service and other organizations shows that a large swath of the north-central United States and presumably at least the adjacent sections of Canada and much of the surface of the Great Lakes can expect winds above 85 mi/h to as high as 120 mi/h (135 to 190 km/h) over a significant area at least once in any 50-year period, including both convective events and extra-tropical cyclones and other events deriving power from baroclinic sources. Only in 40 to 65 percent or so of the United States resting on the coast of the Atlantic basin and a fraction of the Everglades are derechoes surpassed in this respect—by landfalling hurricanes, which in the worst case can have winds as severe as EF3 tornadoes.

Area affected by the 30–31 May 1998 derecho event. Purple lines mark the "gust front" at three hourly intervals. "+" symbols mark wind damage or gusts above 58 mph (93 km/h). Red dots and paths mark tornadoes.
Blown trees by downbursts in the Boundary Waters – Canadian derecho of 1999

Certain derecho situations are the most common instances of severe weather outbreaks which can become less favourable to tornado production as they become more violent; the height of the 30–31 May 1998 upper Middle West-Canada-New York State derecho and the latter stages of significant tornado and severe weather outbreaks in 2003 and 2004 are but only three examples of this. Some upper-air measurements used for severe-weather forecasting can reflect this point of diminishing returns for tornado formation, and the mentioned three situations were instances during which the rare but quite possible particularly dangerous situation severe thunderstorm variety of severe weather watches were issued from the Storm Prediction Center of the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

Downbursts in general are extremely common in derechoes and the rotor variety can also cause damage in a circular pattern.


Derechos in North America form predominantly from May to August, peaking in frequency during the latter part of June into July. During this time of year, derechos are mostly found in the Ohio Valley, Upper Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes region including southern Canada, mostly in Southwestern Ontario. During mid-summer if a hot and muggy airmass covers the north-central US they will often develop further north in Manitoba or Northwestern Ontario, near or just north of the US-Canadian border. North Dakota, Minnesota and upper Michigan are also vulnerable to derecho storms when such conditions are in place. They often occur during periods of extreme heat along stationary fronts on the northern side of where the most intense heat and humidity is occurring. Late-year derechos are confined to Texas and the Deep South, although a late-summer derecho struck upper parts of the New York State area after midnight on 7 September 1998.

Derechos have been known to occur in other parts of the world. One such event occurred on 10 July 2002 in Germany. A serial derecho killed eight people and injured 39 near Berlin. They have occurred in Argentina and South Africa as well, and on rarer occasions close to or north of the 60th parallel in Northern Canada. Primarily a mid-latitudes phenomenon, derechos do occur in the Amazon Basin of Brazil.[4]


Serial derecho
Progressive derecho

There are three types of derechos:

  • Serial derecho - Multiple bow echoes embedded in a massive squall line typically around 250 miles (400 km) long. This type of derecho is usually associated with a very deep low. One example of the serial type is a derecho that occurred during the Storm of the Century (1993) in Florida. Also because of embedded supercells, tornadoes can easily spin out of these types of derechos.
  • Progressive derecho - A small line of thunderstorms take the bow-shape and can travel for hundreds of miles along stationary fronts. An example of this is the Boundary Waters-Canadian Derecho of 4-5 July 1999. Tornado formation is less common in a Progressive than Serial type.
  • Hybrid derecho - Has characteristics of a serial and progressive derecho. These types of derechos are associated with a deep low like serial derechos, but are relatively small in size like progressive derechos. An example is the Late-May 1998 Tornado Outbreak and Derecho that moved through the central Northern Plains and the Southern Great Lakes on 30-31 May 1998.

According to the National Weather Service criterion, a derecho is classified as a band of storms that have winds of at least 50 knots (58 mi/h or 93 km/h) along the entire span of the derecho, which occurs over a time span of at least 6 hours.

Damage risk

Since derechos occur during warm months and often in places with cold winter climates, people who are most at risk are those involved in outdoor activities. Campers, hikers, and motorists are most at risk because of falling trees toppled over by straight line winds. Wide swaths of forest have been felled by such storms. People who live in mobile homes are also at risk; mobile homes that are not anchored to the ground can be overturned from the high winds. Derechos may also severely damage an urban area's electrical distribution system, especially if these services are routed above ground. An example would be the Chicagoland Derecho of 2011, in which over 860,000 customers were left without power.

See also


  1. ^ BWCA Blowdown, NWS WFO Duluth MN
  2. ^ Johns, Robert H.; Jeffry S. Evans, and Stephen F. Corfidi (2006-04-12). "About Derechos". Storm Prediction Center, NCEP, NWS, NOAA Web Site. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  3. ^ Merriam-Webster's Spanish/English Dictionary (2009). Derecho. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved on 2009-05-03.
  4. ^ Negrón-Juárez, Robinson I.; J. Q. Chambers, G. Guimaraes, H. Zeng, C. F. M. Raupp, D. M. Marra, G. H. P. M. Ribeiro, S. S. Saatchi, B. W. Nelson, and N. Higuchi (19 August 2010). "Widespread Amazon forest tree mortality from a single cross-basin squall line event". Geophys. Res. Lett. (American Geophysical Union) 37 (L16701). Bibcode 2010GeoRL..3716701N. doi:10.1029/2010GL043733. 


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • derecho — derecho, cha (Del lat. directus, directo). 1. adj. Recto, igual, seguido, sin torcerse a un lado ni a otro. Esta pared no está derecha. 2. Justo, legítimo. 3. Fundado, cierto, razonable. 4. directo (ǁ que va sin detenerse en puntos intermedios).… …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • derecho — derecho, cha adjetivo 1. (estar) Que es recto, no se desvía o no se tuerce ni a un lado ni a otro: Haciendo gimnasia he conseguido tener la espalda derecha. Ese cuadro no está derecho. ¿Tan difícil es hacer una línea más o menos derecha? Antónimo …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • derecho — Derecho. Conjunto de leyes a que están sometidos los entes con personalidad jurídica, y a cuyo cumplimiento pueden ser obligados coactivamente. derecho de réplica derecho de respuesta derecho real Ver: estar uno a derecho Ver: usar uno de su… …   Diccionario de Economía Alkona

  • derecho — Derecho. Conjunto de leyes a que están sometidos los entes con personalidad jurídica, y a cuyo cumplimiento pueden ser obligados coactivamente. derecho de réplica derecho de respuesta derecho real Ver: estar uno a derecho Ver: usar uno de su… …   Diccionario de Economía

  • derecho — derecho, cha adjetivo 1) recto, seguido, directo*. 2) justo, fundado, legítimo. 3) vertical, erguido. 4) diestro. → derecha. (↑ …   Diccionario de sinónimos y antónimos

  • derecho — derecho, no haber derecho expr. no ser aceptable, no estar bien. ❙ « hay derecho a que me traiga arrastrada por la calle de la amargura.» Carmen Martín Gaite, Nubosidad variable, 1992, RAE CREA …   Diccionario del Argot "El Sohez"

  • derecho — ‘Posibilidad legal o moral de hacer algo’. Se construye con a o de: «No pude continuar defendiendo mi derecho a quedarme con el bebé» (Millás Mujeres [Esp. 2002]); «Él tenía todo el derecho de quedarse solo» (Mendoza Satanás [Col. 2002]) …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • Derecho — De*re cho, n. [Sp. derecho straight.] A straight wind without apparent cyclonic tendency, usually accompanied with rain and often destructive, common in the prairie regions of the United States. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • derecho — from Amer.Sp. derecho, from O.Sp. diestro, from L. directus (see DIRECT (Cf. direct)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Derecho — (Del lat. directus, recto, directo.) ► adjetivo 1 Recto, igual, que sigue siempre la misma dirección sin torcerse a un lado o a otro: ■ éste es el camino más derecho para llegar a su casa. ANTÓNIMO doblado torcido 2 Se refiere a aquello que,… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Derecho — Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada, como revistas especializadas, monografías, prensa diaria o páginas de Internet fidedignas. Puedes añadirlas así o avisar al autor princ …   Wikipedia Español

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