Waterspouts on the Great Lakes

Waterspout from Oval Beach in Saugatuck, photo by Jim Thias

I’m not sure where exactly I should link to for Jim, so here’s his great pictures on railpictures.net.

The archived article on Waterspouts on Lake Michigan – where I found this photo – from NOAA’s National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Grand Rapids has a number of photos taken from Holland & Saugatuck on September 29, 2006. They explain that:

Waterspouts are somewhat common over the Great Lakes in the Fall season. Waterspouts in the fall occur when colder air above the surface moves over the still relatively warmer waters of Lake Michigan. Most waterspouts that occur in this type of scenario typically occur under plain showers and are much weaker than their summer counterparts. This fall type of waterspout is different from waterspouts associated with thunderstorms. They also form differently than waterspouts associated with thunderstorms.

The National Weather Service in Gaylord has a lot more about the science behind waterspout formation that includes a kicking photo of a group of spouts over Lake Huron in the fall of 1999. They say that boaters should take waterspouts seriously and seek immediate shelter when they are forecast. Waterspouts come in two types: tornadic and fair weather.

Tornadic waterspouts generally begin as true tornadoes over land in association with a thunderstorm, and then move out over the water. They can be large and are capable of considerable destruction. Fair weather waterspouts, on the other hand, form only over open water. They develop at the surface of the water and climb skyward in association with warm water temperatures and high humidity in the lowest several thousand feet of the atmosphere. They are usually small, relatively brief, and less dangerous. The fair weather variety of waterspout is much more common than the tornadic.

You can get a lot more great photos in a search for waterspout on the WOOD-TV blogs. I guess I can link over to this waterspout feature on Leelanau.com that includes my own photo of some waterspouts over the Manitou Islands.

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