VIDEO EXPLAINER: How to tell what kind of waterspout has formed over Lake Erie and if it's a tornado

Waterspouts spotted Thursday on Lake Erie

CLEVELAND - With the uncharacteristically chilly air bringing fall temps in the middle of our July summer, there's an increased chance of waterspouts over Lake Erie.

The chance is greater Thursday than even Wednesday when the cool down first arrived. Already Thursday, multiple users have sent in their photos of waterspouts they've seen.

So, this begs the question? Did we see a tornado? Isn't a waterspout just a tornado over water? The answer is... kind of.


It all depends on how that waterspout forms. Typically, waterspouts in our area are usually NOT from supercell thunderstorms. So, if it formed as a waterspout over the lake, it wouldn't continue on land as a tornado. Waterspouts weaken as they approach land.

That kind of waterspout is a non-tornadic waterspout, which happen when there are no thunderstorms in the area, most likely forming from cooler air aloft moving over a warmer lake. That temperature difference can sometimes cause rotation, and a waterspout. Keep in mind, most waterspouts are much weaker than their tornado "cousins."

Of course, sometimes a supercell thunderstorm can spawn a tornado over water. If that happens, then we do have a tornadic waterspout and simply a tornado over water. It's likely this waterspout will be much stronger than a non-tornadic waterspout and will likely continue as a tornado once it reaches land.

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