A cloudburst is an extreme amount of precipitation in a short period of time,[1] sometimes accompanied by hail and thunder, which is capable of creating flood conditions. A cloudburst can suddenly dump large amounts of water e.g. 25 mm of precipitation corresponds to 25,000 metric tons/km2 (1 inch corresponds to 72,300 short tons over one square mile). However, cloudbursts are infrequent as they occur only via orographic lift or occasionally when a warm air parcel mixes with cooler air, resulting in sudden condensation. At times, a large amount of runoff from higher elevations is mistakenly conflated with a cloudburst. The term "cloudburst" arose from the notion that clouds were akin to water balloons and could burst, resulting in rapid precipitation. Though this idea has since been disproven, the term remains in use.


Rainfall rate equal to or greater than 100 millimetres (3.9 in) per hour is a cloudburst.[2][3] However, different definitions are used, e.g. the Swedish weather service SMHI defines the corresponding Swedish term "skyfall" as 1 mm/min for short bursts and 50 mm/h for longer rainfalls. The associated convective cloud can extend up to a height of 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) above the ground.[4]

During a cloudburst, more than 20 millimetres (0.79 in) of rain may fall in a few minutes. The results of cloudbursts can be disastrous. Cloudbursts are also responsible for flash flood creation.

Rapid precipitation from cumulonimbus clouds is possible due to the Langmuir precipitation process in which large droplets can grow rapidly by coagulating with smaller droplets which fall down slowly. It is not essential that cloudbursts occur only when a cloud clashes with a solid body like a mountain. They can also occur when hot water vapor mingles into the cold resulting in sudden condensation.

Record cloudbursts

1 minute1.5 inches (38.10 mm)Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe26 November 1970
5.5 minutes2.43 inches (61.72 mm)Port Bell, Panama29 November 1911
15 minutes7.8 inches (198.12 mm)Plumb Point, Jamaica12 May 1916
20 minutes8.1 inches (205.74 mm)Curtea de Argeș, Romania7 July 1947
40 minutes9.25 inches (234.95 mm)Guinea, Virginia, United States24 August 1906
1 hour9.84 inches (250 mm)Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, IndiaAugust 5, 2010 [5]
1 hour5.67 inches (144 mm)Pune, Maharashtra, IndiaSeptember 29, 2010 [2]
1.5 hours7.15 inches (182 mm)Pune, Maharashtra, IndiaOctober 4, 2010 [2]
5 hours15.35 inches (390 mm)La Plata, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaApril 2, 2013 [6]
10 hours57.00 inches (1,448 mm)Mumbai, Maharashtra, IndiaJuly 26, 2005
24 hours54.00 inches (1,372 mm)Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand, IndiaJuly 1, 2016
13 hours45.03 inches (1,144 mm)Foc-Foc, La RéunionJanuary 8, 1966[7]
20 hours91.69 inches (2,329 mm)Ganges Delta, Bangladesh/IndiaJanuary 8, 1966[8]
24 hours 73.62 inches (1,870 mm) Cilaos, La Réunion March, 1952


In the Indian subcontinent

In the Indian subcontinent, a cloudburst usually occurs when a monsoon cloud drifts northwards, from the Bay of Bengal or Arabian Sea across the plains, then onto the Himalayas and bursts, bringing rainfall as high as 75 millimetres per hour.[9]


  • In September, 2004 341 millimetres (13.4 in) mm of rain was recorded in Dhaka in 24 hours.[10]
  • On June 11, 2007 425 millimetres (16.7 in) mm of rain fell in 24 hours in Chittagong.[10]
  • On July 29, 2009 a record breaking 333 millimetres (13.1 in) of rain was recorded in Dhaka, in 24 hours, previously 326 millimetres (12.8 in) of rain was recorded on July 13, 1956.[10]


  • On September 28, 1908 – A cloudburst resulted in a flood where the Musi River swelled up to 3.4 meters. About 15,000 people died and around 80,000 houses were destroyed along the banks of the river.[11]
  • In July 1970, a cloudburst in the upper catchment area led to a 15-metre rise in the Alaknanda River in Uttarakhand. The entire river basin, from Hanumanchatti near the pilgrimage town of Badrinath to Haridwar was affected. An entire village was swept away.
  • On August 15, 1997, 1,500 people were killed when a cloudburst occurred and trail of death was all that was left behind in Chirgaon in Shimla district, Himachal Pradesh.[12]
  • On August 17, 1998, a massive landslide following heavy rain and a cloudburst at Malpa village killed 250 people, including 60 Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims in Kali valley of the Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand. Among the dead was Odissi dancer Protima Bedi.
  • On July 16, 2003, about 40 people were killed in flash floods caused by a cloudburst at Shilagarh in Gursa area of Kullu district, Himachal Pradesh.[13]
  • On July 6, 2004, at least 17 people were killed and 28 injured when three vehicles were swept into the Alaknanda River by heavy landslides triggered by a cloudburst that left nearly 5,000 pilgrims stranded near Badrinath shrine area in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand.[14]
  • On 26 July 2005, a cloudburst caused approximately 950 millimetres (37 in) of rainfall in Mumbai.[15] over a span of eight to ten hours; the deluge completely paralysed India's largest city and financial centre, leaving over 1,000 dead. Half of the flooding was caused due to the blockage sewers in many parts of Mumbai.
  • On August 14, 2007, 52 people were confirmed dead when a severe cloudburst occurred in Bhavi village in Ganvi, Himachal Pradesh.[16]
  • On August 7, 2009, 38 people were killed in a landslide resulting from a cloudburst in Nachni area near Munsiyari in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand.[17]
  • On August 6, 2010, in Leh, a series of cloudbursts left over 1,000 people dead (updated number) and over 400 injured in the frontier Leh town of Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir.[8]
  • On September 15, 2010, a cloudburst in Almora in Uttarakhand submerged two villages, one of them being Balta, in which save for a few people, the entire village drowned. Almora was declared as a town suffering from the brunt of cloudburst by the Uttarakhand authorities.
  • On September 29, 2010, a cloudburst in NDA (National Defence Academy), Khadakwasla, Pune, in Maharashtra left many injured and hundreds of vehicles and buildings damaged due to the consequent flash flood.[2]
  • Again on October 4, 2010, a cloudburst in Pashan, Pune, in Maharashtra left 4 dead, many injured and hundreds of vehicles and buildings damaged; the record books registered the highest rainfall in intensity and quantity in Pune city, then about 118 years old (record of 149.1 mm in 24 hours)of October 24, 1892. In the history of IT hub Pune, for the first time this flash flood forced locals to remain in their vehicles, offices and what ever available shelter in the accompanying traffic jam.[2]
  • On October 4, 2010, a cloudburst in Pashan, Pune may have been the world's first predicted cloudburst. Since 2:30 pm weather scientist Kirankumar Johare in the city frantically sent out SMSs to the higher authorities warning of an impending cloudburst over the Pashan area. Even after taking the necessary precautions, 4 people died including one young scientist.[2]
  • On June 9, 2011, near Jammu, a cloudburst left four people dead and over several injured in Doda-Batote highway, 135 km from Jammu. Two restaurants and many shops were washed away[18]
  • On 20 July 2011, a cloudburst in upper Manali, 18 km from Manali town in Himachal Pradesh state left 2 dead and 22 missing.[19]
  • On September 15, 2011, a cloudburst was reported in the Palam area of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The Indira Gandhi International Airport's Terminal-3 was flooded with water at the arrival due to the immense downpour. Even though no lives were lost in the rain that lasted an hour, it was enough to enter the record books as the highest rainfall in the city since 1959.[20]
  • On September 14, 2012, there was a cloudburst in Ukhimath in the Rudraprayag district, Uttarakhand killing 39 people.[21]
  • On June 15, 2013, a cloudburst was reported in Kedarnath and Rambara region of Rudraprayag district, Uttarakhand. Over 1,000 killed to date, it is feared that the death toll may rise to 5,000. Debris is still being cleared and thousands are still missing as of June 30, 2013. It left approximately 84,000 people stranded for several days. The Indian Army and its Northern Command launched one of the largest and most extensive human rescue missions in its history. Spread over 40,000 square kilometres, 45 helicopters were deployed to rescue the stranded.[22][23] According to a news report this incident was falsely linked with cloud burst, rather it was caused due to disturbance in the two glaciers near Kedarnath.[24]
  • On July 30, 2014, a landslide occurred in the small Indian village of Malin, located in Ambegaon taluka in Pune district of India. The landslide, which hit the village early in the morning while its residents were asleep, killed at least 20 people. In addition to those dead, over 160 people were believed to have been buried in the landslide in 44 separate houses, though more recent estimates place the figure at about seventy
  • On July 31, 2014, a cloudburst was reported in Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. At least 4 people were reported dead.
  • On September 6, 2014 there was a cloudburst in Kashmir valley killing more than 200 people. Center for Science and Environment (CSE) mentioned heavy and unchecked development aggravated the development in the region. Over 1,84,000 people were rescued after heavy rains have large part of the State submerged.
  • On May 8, 2016 Continuous rainfall occurred in Tharali and Karnaprayag in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand resulting in damage, but no casualties.
  • On the night of July 5, 2017 a cloudburst was reported in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. Some local stations recorded 102 mm rain in an hour. Surprisingly no one was killed and no significant damage occurred.
  • On July, 20, 2017, a cloudburst caused huge damage at Thathri town of Doda district killing more than 6 people.
  • On May 4, 2018, a cloudburst had occurred above Belagavi, Karnataka. Weather stations in the area reported 95mm rain in an hour. No significant casualties or damage had occurred.


  • On July 1, 1977, the city of Karachi was flooded when 207 millimetres (8.1 in) of rain was recorded in 24 hours.[25]
  • On July 23, 2001 620 millimetres (24 in) of rainfall was recorded in 10 hours in Islamabad. It was the heaviest rainfall in 24 hours in Islamabad and at any locality in Pakistan during the past 100 years.[26][27][28][29]
  • On July 23, 2001 335 millimetres (13.2 in) of rainfall was recorded in 10 hours in Rawalpindi.[28][29]
  • On July 18, 2009, 245 millimetres (9.6 in) of rainfall occurred in just 4 hours in Karachi, which caused massive flooding in the metropolis city.[30]
  • On July 29, 2010 a record breaking 280 millimetres (11 in) of rain was recorded in Risalpur in 24 hours.[31]
  • On July 29, 2010 a record breaking 274 millimetres (10.8 in) of rain was recorded in Peshawar in 24 hours.[31]
  • On August 9, 2011 176 millimetres (6.9 in) of rainfall was recorded in 3 hours in Islamabad flooded main streets.[32]
  • On August 10, 2011 a record breaking 291 millimetres (11.5 in) of rainfall was recorded in 24 hours in Mithi, Sindh Pakistan.[33][34][35]
  • On August 11, 2011 a record breaking 350 millimetres (14 in) of rainfall was recorded in 24 hours in Tando Ghulam Ali, Sindh Pakistan.[36]
  • On September 7, 2011 a record breaking 312 millimetres (12.3 in) of rainfall was recorded in 24 hours in Diplo, Sindh Pakistan.[37]
  • On September 9, 2012 Jacobabad received the heaviest rainfall in the last 100 years, and recorded 380 millimetres (15 in) in 24 hours, as a result over 150 houses collapsed.[38]

Colorado Piedmont

The uplands adjacent to the Front Range of Colorado and the streams which drain the Front Range are subject to occasional cloudbursts and flash floods. This weather pattern is associated with upslope winds bringing moisture northwestward from the Gulf of Mexico.[39]

See also


  1. International Glossary of Hydrology. World Meteorological Organization and UNESCO. 2011. Archived from the original on 2005-11-03.
  2. "It was a cloudburst, says weather scientest". Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  3. "What is a cloudburst?". Rediff News, India. August 1, 2005
  4. "Cloud Burst over Leh (Jammu & Kashmir)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-15
  5. "Cloudburst in Ladakh, India". August 9, 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  6. "Trágicas inundaciones en La Plata". April 9, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  7. "Records_clim". Archived from the original on 2010-06-06. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  8. Cloudburst In The Leh, WorldSnap, retrieved 9 September 2012
  9. Cloudburst In The Subcontinent Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  10. "'Cloud Burst' Breaks 53-year Record". 2009-07-29. Archived from the original on 2018-03-12. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  11. syed akbar (2008-09-28). "Syed Akbar Journalist: Musi Floods 1908: What really happened that fateful day". Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  12. "Sorry". Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  13. Kanwar Yogendra (July 17, 2003). "40 killed in Himachal cloudburst, flash floods". Archived from the original on March 18, 2005.
  14. "6 killed as cloudburst hits kotdwar area". 2004-07-06. Retrieved 2012-08-13.{{|date=December 2017 |bot=InternetArchiveBot |fix-attempted=yes }}
  15. Ahmed, Zubair (May 19, 2006). "Mumbai commuters face travel woe". BBC. Mumbai, India.
  16. "52 casualties confirmed in Ghanvi cloud burst". The Hindu. Chennai, India. August 16, 2007.
  17. "38 die in Pithoragarh cloudburst, rescue works on". Indian Express. 2009-08-08. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  18. "Doda cloudburst: 4 feared dead, several stranded". 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  19. "Cloudburst in Manali: 2 dead, many missing". The Times Of India. July 21, 2011.
  20. "A month's rain in 3 hours for Delhi, T3 flooded". NDTV. September 15, 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2016.
  21. "Fresh Landslides in Uttarakhand, toll 39". The Times of India. September 17, 2012.
  22. "Uttarakhand floods: Toll reaches 550, more rains yet to come - Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". June 21, 2013.
  23. "Uttarakhand: More than 550 killed; thousands still stranded". The Times Of India.
  24. Source-Isro Report
  25. "MEAN FOR THE PERIOD 1961 - 2009". Archived from the original on 2014-12-20. Retrieved 2014-12-15.
  26. Tom Ross; Neal Lott; Axel Graumann; Sam McCown. "NCDC: Climate-Watch, July 2001". Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  27. Abdul Hameed (September 2007). SEVERE STORMS on dated 23rd July 2001 Islamabad pakistan (PDF). 4th European Conference on Severe Storms. Italy.
  28. Naeem Shah. "Cloud Burst (Heavy Rain) Over Twin Cities Islamabad - Rawalpindi on 23rd July 2001" (PDF).
  29. "Newsletter". July–December 2001. p. 7. Archived from the original on 2003-09-30.
  30. "Effects of Heavy Rain in Karachi on 18 July 2009". Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  31. "RAINFALL STATEMENT JULY-2010". Archived from the original on 2010-08-20.
  32. "Rain wreaks havoc in Islamabad, cities in Punjab and KP". 2011-08-09. Archived from the original on 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  33. " : Widespread Heavy rainfall in Southern sindh". Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  34. " : 231 mm of rain recorded in Mithi in 24 Hours". Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  35. " : Record breaking rainfall in Mithi". Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  36. " : Record breaking heavy rain in Tando Ghulam Ali". Archived from the original on 27 December 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  37. " : Record breaking heavy rain in Sindh". Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  38. " : Record breaking rainfall in Jacobabad". Retrieved 10 September 2012.
  39. "Floods in Colorado" Department of the Interior 1949
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