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5 Waterspout Hot Spots Around the World

Becky Kellogg
Published: August 29, 2013

iWitness weather user twojbutlers826 wrote: This appeared after a storm had been rolling through on my drive down to Key West...the rain cleared from the roads and off to my left this amazing waterspout formed. My first experience, and it was AMAZING!!

  • Ormond Beach, Fla.
  • Amazing iWitness Waterspouts: Ashtabula, Oh.

Amazing iWitness waterspout photos

Take the violent movement of a tornado, add a large body of water and you have a spectacular meteorological phenomenon: a waterspout. 

Unlike a tornado, these swirling vortices of water seem to float over oceans and lakes. Waterspouts are generally weak, so  they cause little or no damage.

This summer, it seems waterspouts have formed with increasing frequency. That led us here at weather.com to wonder if we’re seeing a surge in waterspouts or if, perhaps, the U.S. is a hot spot for waterspouts. 

(MORE:  6 Things You Didn't Know About Waterspouts)

“The perfect conditions for waterspouts are instability (cool air over warmer water) and source of spin or, what we call in meteorology, vorticity,” said director of the International Centre Waterspout Research Wade Szilagy. “You need a combination of the two.”

Szilagy started tracking waterspouts 19 years ago and is considered an expert on the subject. He says we’re in the middle of waterspout season. 

“For North America, for the Great Lakes, waterspout season begins in July and last until late summer or early fall,” said Szilagy. “But waterspouts can happen during the day or night and anytime during the year.”

Szilagy said waterspouts are most frequently reported near the coast and near cities, where the population is higher and the waterspouts are more likely to be seen, photographed and videotaped. 

Like tornado alleys, there are places where waterspouts are more likely to occur, Szilagy said.

The top spot is taken by a U.S. island chain that has been weather-battered for generations.


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