Usually, the easy way to explain funnel clouds is that they're tornadoes that don't reach the ground.
But not in the Northwest. Here, our funnel clouds are tornado imposters!
Almost all funnel clouds along the Pacific Coast are known as "cold core funnels" or "cold air funnels". They are different from typical devastating Midwest tornadoes in that these are spawned from non-severe storms and can occur when you get a tightly wrapped rush of rising air that can appear as a funnel.
They get their name from the usual pattern when you have a storm bringing much colder air into the higher altitudes -- a common occurrence around here in spring and fall.
Cold-core funnels rarely reach the ground, and if they do, are very weak. They are not all *that* rare with well-formed Convergence Zones -- especially in spring and autumn.