WINDSOR, Ontario – On Monday afternoon, Local 4 got word of a funnel cloud spotted over the eastern part of Windsor. We had no threat for severe weather and there were no thunderstorms in the area at the time, just a shower with a small heavier downpour. So how did a funnel cloud develop?
It’s important to understand that most tornadoes come from a severe thunderstorm. The storm cloud rises very high into the sky -- sometimes over ten miles aloft, and there is normally strong rotation extending high up into the storm.
On Monday, however, there was no severe storm, but we still saw a funnel cloud. These are typically either waterspouts, landspouts (same thing as a waterspout -- but over land), and cold air funnels. A waterspout or landspout occurs when there’s just enough low-level wind shear to cause a circulation near the surface, and when the associated air parcel rises, so does the circulation.
Waterspouts and landspouts are generally much, much weaker than tornadoes, and have shorter lifespans. In today’s case, we did not receive any reports that the funnel touched down, and I confirmed this with the Ontario Storm Prediction Center.
Cold air funnels are common over the Great Lakes in the fall when cold air masses start flowing over the relatively warmer lakes -- that creates an unstable atmosphere above those waters.
If a strong storm system aloft crosses the lakes in fall, we sometimes get enough wind shear to work with that instability to generate these funnel clouds. Like waterspouts and landspouts, cold air funnels are generally weaker than the standard tornado.
Finally, just a reminder that, if you haven’t done it already, please download the free Storm Pins app onto your phone. All you have to do is search for “WDIV” in the app store, and you’ll see Local 4 Storm Pins right there.
Once you register, you’re all set -- it’s very simple to snap a photo on your phone and post it -- storm damage, a rainbow, or just a pretty sunset (even when you’re on vacation).
Not only does this enable us to get photos on the air very quickly, but the National Weather Service monitors Storm Pins and you can help them with their warnings and storm verification. Finally, you get to see everybody else’s photos.
Weather has never been more social but, to us, Storm Pins’ greatest asset is that you can instantly get photos (and even short videos) to us to help warn the public about approaching dangerous weather. Come be a part of the Storm Pins team.