Waterspout or Tornado? What's the difference? - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Waterspout or Tornado? What's the difference?

Multiple waterspouts were spotted in Carolina Beach and Oak Island on Thursday morning.

Reports of funnel clouds, tornadoes, and waterspouts all came flooding in to our newsroom and on Facebook.

See the Slideshow of the Carolina Beach Tornado/Waterspout

So it begs the question :


What's the difference between a waterspout and a tornado?

Funnel Cloud : A vertical rotating column of air that forms from the base of a cloud. The column is not in contact with the ground

Tornado : A funnel cloud, or rotating column of air that forms from the base of a thunderstorm and reaches the ground.

A condensation funnel (the visible part of the funnel cloud) does not necessarily need to be all the way to the ground to be a tornado, but the circulation must reach the ground. This is often evidenced by debris or swirling at the surface.

Waterspout : A column of rotating air that forms over water. There are 2 main types of waterspouts : Tornadic waterspouts and "fair-weather" waterspouts. A waterspout becomes a tornado once it reaches land.


Types of Water Spouts

"Fair-weather" waterspouts
These waterspouts generally form in fair weather over very warm ocean temperatures. Warm water heats the area, which rises and may begin to rotate (it atmospheric conditions are just right).

They are typically more common in the morning, when the air temperature may be cooler than the water temperature. Commonly the waterspout may be connected to a larger cumulus cloud, but it is not always the case. These waterspouts are typically the weaker waterspouts and are akin to dust devils.

Tornadic/Supercell Waterspouts
This is essentially a strong tornado produced from a severe thunderstorm that happens to be over water. These waterspouts tend to be stronger than the "fair-weather" variety.

The spouts form slightly different from the fair weather variety and have the same formation process as land tornadoes. Strong updrafts in thunderstorms transform horizontally turning winds into vertically rotating funnels as they are ingested into the thunderstorm.

Copyright 2011 WECT. All rights reserved.

  • First Alert Weather NewsFirst Alert Weather NewsMore>>

  • First Alert Forecast: gorgeous late June weather moving in, it won't last long

    First Alert Forecast: uncommonly low humidity ...for now

    Wednesday, June 28 2017 4:13 AM EDT2017-06-28 08:13:46 GMT

    AHHHHHHH... Enjoy a rare-for-June break in humidity and rain chances Wednesday and Thursday. The "Bermuda High" ought to bring a return of those classic summertime weather factors Friday, the weekend, and into Independence Day.

    More >>

    AHHHHHHH... Enjoy a rare-for-June break in humidity and rain chances Wednesday and Thursday. The "Bermuda High" ought to bring a return of those classic summertime weather factors Friday, the weekend, and into Independence Day.

    More >>
  • NOAA releases 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast

    NOAA releases 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast

    Thursday, May 25 2017 12:29 PM EDT2017-05-25 16:29:18 GMT

    NOAA - the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - released its 2017 Hurricane Season forecast for the Atlantic Basin Thursday.

    More >>

    NOAA - the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - released its 2017 Hurricane Season forecast for the Atlantic Basin Thursday.

    More >>
  • Hurricane cone-ology

    Hurricane cone-ology

    Today, satellites and supercomputers have vastly improved hurricane forecasting and warning. But one of our age's best tools for communicating a hurricane threat, the National Hurricane Center's official “forecast cone," can be misrepresented and is often misunderstood.

    More >>

    Today, satellites and supercomputers have vastly improved hurricane forecasting and warning. But one of our age's best tools for communicating a hurricane threat, the National Hurricane Center's official “forecast cone," can be misrepresented and is often misunderstood.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly