A waterspout near Florida. The two flares with smoke trails near the bottom of the photograph are for indicating wind direction and general speed.

A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex (usually appearing as a funnel-shaped cloud) that occurs over a body of water. Some are connected to a cumulus congestus cloud, some to a cumuliform cloud and some to a cumulonimbus cloud. [1] In the common form, it is a non- supercell tornado over water. [1] [2] [3]

While it is often weaker than most of its land counterparts, stronger versions spawned by mesocyclones do occur. [4] [5] Most waterspouts do not suck up water; they are small and weak rotating columns of air over water. [1] [6]

While waterspouts form mostly in the tropics and subtropical areas, [1] other areas also report waterspouts, including Europe, New Zealand, the Great Lakes, Antarctica [7] [8] and on rare occasions, the Great Salt Lake. [9] Although rare, waterspouts have been observed in connection with lake-effect snow precipitation bands.

Waterspouts have a five-part life cycle: formation of a dark spot on the water surface, spiral pattern on the water surface, formation of a spray ring, development of the visible condensation funnel, and ultimately decay.


Illustration from the book The Philosophy of Storms, published in 1841.

Waterspouts exist on a microscale, where their environment is less than two kilometers in width. The cloud from which they develop can be as innocuous as a moderate cumulus, or as great as a supercell. While some waterspouts are strong and tornadic in nature, most are much weaker and caused by different atmospheric dynamics. They normally develop in moisture-laden environments as their parent clouds are in the process of development, and it is theorized they spin as they move up the surface boundary from the horizontal shear near the surface, and then stretch upwards to the cloud once the low level shear vortex aligns with a developing cumulus cloud or thunderstorm. Weak tornadoes, known as landspouts, have been shown to develop in a similar manner. [10]

More than one waterspout can occur in the same vicinity at the same time. As many as nine simultaneous waterspouts have been reported on Lake Michigan. [7] The illustration on the left, by James Pollard Espy in 1841, shows the manner in which one spout, while forming, tends to generate others in its neighborhood.

Other Languages
العربية: شاهقة مائية
català: Tromba marina
čeština: Vodní smršť
dansk: Skypumpe
Deutsch: Wasserhose
eesti: Vesipüks
español: Manga de agua
euskara: Traganarru
français: Trombe marine
हिन्दी: जलस्तंभ
Ido: Trombo
Bahasa Indonesia: Waterspout
italiano: Tromba marina
עברית: נד מים
മലയാളം: ജലസ്തംഭം
Bahasa Melayu: Sengkayan
Nederlands: Waterhoos
norsk: Skypumpe
norsk nynorsk: Skypumpe
polski: Trąba wodna
português: Tromba de água
Simple English: Waterspout
ślůnski: Wodno trůmba
српски / srpski: Тромба
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Pijavica (atmosferska pojava)
中文: 海龍捲風