People living near the northern Great Lakes have had the pleasure of watching the amazing phenomenon known as dark waterspouts spinning out over the waves. They resemble small tornadoes that appear to be drilling into the water’s surface.
In fact, several waterspouts were seen yesterday forming over Lake Superior near Michigan’s Upper Peninsula between Munising and Marquette. Moreover, a storm near Northern Michigan University was so close to the shore and appeared to be powerful enough that the National Weather Service located in Marquette issued a tornado warning in case the waterspout wafted over land. Fortunately, that never happened.
Lake Superior water temperatures near the town of Marquette were about 55 degrees on Thursday afternoon and the air temperature was in the high 40s.
The current temperatures of the water and the air mean that an “outbreak” of waterspouts could last for several days. So far, much of the waterspout activity has centered in the region of Northern Michigan in Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Waterspouts are likely to appear in all of the Great Lakes on Friday.
Cold air mixed with warm water temperatures and then combined with spinning air from a current storm system presents the perfect conditions for the formation of waterspouts.
Although they can be difficult to predict, they tend to form where the coldest air is right above the warmest water. Waterspouts typically mean that fall is right around the corner - but in this case they are happening right in the middle of fall.
When waterspouts are forming, it is generally a good idea to be out of the water. They typically form in thunderstorms - which makes lightning a real possibility. Additionally, the winds from the waterspouts can be severe and cause unsafe conditions. Also, waterspouts usually dissipate into the air when they reach the shore, so observing the phenomenon from a ways offshore is safe. Although- be careful about that lightning!