WaterspoutsAugust 11th, 2011 at 8:00 pm by Amelia Segal under 4 Warn Weather
Yesterday our newsroom was flooded with pictures of a waterspout over Lake Erie. A fairly common occurrence in late summer and early fall. But what are they exactly and why do they occur?
Waterspouts, in short, are tornados over water. There are two classifications; tornadic and fair-weather. Tornadic waterspouts form due to a severe thunderstorm; they can be tornadoes over land and move onto water or form on the water.
Fair-weather waterspouts form at the surface of the water and build skyward. These waterspouts are still dangerous for mariners and can capsize boats. More common around the WNY area, fair-weather waterspouts typically develop in warm waters under cumulus clouds. Relatively cooler air helps to generate waterspouts. They often from where the air is converging, for example along the edge of a front or land breeze. The converging air creates a favorable environment for upward air movement, allowing the spouts to spin up. Typically short lived, these waterspouts have winds that rarely exceed 70 mph.