What Is A Waterspout?

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By By Steve Pool

SEATTLE - Waterspouts are basically tornadoes that occur over water. They're generally weaker but can cause damage to ships out on the water. They've also been known to suck marine life, such as frogs and fish, out of a body of water and have then "rain" down on land.

But around here, we commonly get what are called "cold core" funnel clouds/waterspouts/tornadoes. (Funnel clouds are funnels that don't reach the ground) They are different from typical devastating Midwest tornadoes in that these have wind speeds that are much slower (generally under 70 mph) and can be spawned from non-severe storms.

These occur when you have cold, unstable air moving into the area. Cold-core funnels rarely reach the ground, and if they do, such as this one did over Commencement Bay, they rarely cause any damage.

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After a summer of blue skies; it looks like the transition to fall is beginning. I took this picture of autumn skies over Lake Washington yesterday at 7:30PM.