A record number of waterspouts were spotted in the Great Lakes this summer.
Technically they’re considered to be tornadoes. Being over water, they usually don’t cause much damage. But they are considered a marine hazard.
The perfect conditions for the funnels to form are warmer than usual water plus a sudden drop in air temperature above the lake. The event actually begins with a disturbance at the surface that draws water upward in a spinning ring before the funnel touches down.
Wade Szilagyi, head of Canada’s International Centre for Waterspout Research, counts nearly 160 spouts in the Great Lakes this year. “And this has been extraordinary,” Szilagyi says. “The last time we had anything of this volume was back in 2003 when we had 94 waterspouts. But this has been unprecedented.”
It helps that a lot more people are capturing images with cameras and cellphones and sending them to the Centre.
Szilagyi developed a method to predict waterspouts nearly twenty years ago that’s used by weather services in both Canada and the U.S.
Hear an interview with Zsilagyi above.