Phenomena

Waterspouts

Waterspouts are commonly thought of as tornadoes over water, but this is only partially true. Some waterspouts do begin as tornadoes, but waterspouts are more commonly non-tornadic or fair-weather in origin. These non-tornadic waterspouts form when cold, dry air moves over warm water. As the warm, moist air rises, entrainment and conservation of angular momentum cause the air nearby to begin rotating. The spout does not actually suck water up from the surface. Instead, the humid rising air cools and the water vapor condenses, forming the cloud wall of the spout. Waterspouts are typically very short-lived and last 5 to 10 minutes before the inflowing air cools and the vortex weakens and dissipates.  (Photo credit: U.S. Navy/K. Wasson)

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