Tropical funnels, waterspouts, and seabreeze... oh my!

The science behind Wednesday's weather
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Posted at 3:41 PM, Jul 21, 2021

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — This week has offered some interesting weather in Coastal Bend sky.

On Tuesday, Priscilda Gallegos spotted a photo of a tropical funnel cloud near Portland. The funnel was visible from both the Portland and Sinton areas.

Wednesday morning began on an interesting note for those in Flour Bluff. A funnel cloud was reported by a Coastal Bend Weather Watcher, seen forming near SPID and Waldron Road. Another sighting from Coastal Bend Weather Watcher Tony Keith actually captures waterspout churning up the waters of the Laguna Madre!

According to the NOAA Ocean Service, waterspouts fall into two categories: fair weather waterspouts and tornadic waterspouts. The tornadic variety tend to occur in severe thunderstorms and are much like tornadoes, just over water. Fair weather waterspouts, like the one witnessed today near Flour Bluff form in light wind conditions so they normally move very little. Any waterspout can be destructive, so mariners beware! You should admire these natural wonders from a safe distance and seek shelter if they approach land.

How do they form?

Both tropical funnel clouds and waterspouts have a similar cause. Our recent weather pattern has been one with an abundance of rich, tropical moisture moving in from the Gulf of Mexico. This warm, moist air moves in contrast to the winds higher up in the sky, in the middle and upper-levels. This change in direction with height is called shear and can lend a twist in the atmosphere that causes these interesting weather features.

Sometimes, thunderstorms in the area create outward flowing winds (called an outflow boundary). Once the outflow boundaries collide, they can spark new thunderstorms; the outflows can also cause a 'twist' in the atmosphere if they collide from opposing directions.

Are they dangerous?

While tropical funnels and fair weather waterspouts don't necessarily mean there is severe weather, you should keep your distance. Once a funnel reaches the ground, it is considered a tornado, as are waterspouts that move onto land. They can be dangerous up close, so admire from afar! You can report and interesting weather in our facebook group by searching for "Coastal Bend Weather Watchers".