Breakdown: Why hurricanes produce waterspouts

Breakdown: Why hurricanes produce waterspouts

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Hurricanes can be so powerful and destructive and on top of that, they can also produce waterspouts and tornadoes. Waterspouts can be so cool to see, from a distance of course.

Waterspout
Waterspout (Source: WMC First Alert Weather)

So just how do hurricanes produce waterspouts? Just like tornadoes, waterspouts are formed by winds within thunderstorms. Hurricanes provide spin through the well organize cluster of thunderstorms that are spinning around a center. Waterspouts also need, warm, moist air which hurricanes can also provide. This warm unstable air will want to rise. Hurricanes also provide wind shear, or a quick change in wind direction and speed air rises in height. These winds can create air that rotates. As the air rotates, it can get flipped vertically due to thunderstorms rising air or updrafts, which is warm air that is rising.

A waterspout is not filled with water like it’s name would suggest. A waterspout forms from a cumulus cloud. The water inside a waterspout is due to condensation within the cloud.

There are two main types of waterspouts. They are tornadic waterspouts and fair-weather waterspouts.

Tornadic waterspouts are similar to those in which develop on land and usually form from hurricanes or winds within severe thunderstorms, as air rises and rotates vertically. Tornadic waterspouts are more destructive.

On the other hand, fair-weather waterspouts, however, are way more common. Fair-weather waterspouts are often not harmful. They descend from clouds that are not fast-moving. Often times, fair-weather water spouts don’t move very much. Fair-weather waterspouts form more from developing storms.

The average waterspout is about 165 feet in diameter, with wind speeds of around 50 miles per hour. Florida Keys gets on average 400 waterspouts per year.

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