What is a waterspout? Meaning explained and watch as water tornado rips through off Florida coastline

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Many spectators from Destin, Florida took to social media to film the waterspout

A huge waterspout has been spotted by local residents off Florida’s Emerald Coast.

A gigantic column of water and air has been filmed ripping through the Gulf of Mexico and it is surrounded by black clouds.

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Spectators were stunned by the sight and many filmed the event on social media.

Waterspouts are associated with powerful thunderstorms and frequent lightning. According to the National Weather service of Florida this is the fifth waterspout to be reported in the area this summer.

But what is a waterspout and what causes one to occur?

What is a waterspout?

A waterspout is a cyclonic wind event which is similar to a tornado over water. Waterspouts are made up of swirling droplets of water and are split into two categories - tornadic waterspouts and fair weather waterspouts.

A tornadic waterspout is formed in similar conditions to a tornado. They usually occur during strong thunderstorms, heavy outpours of rain, high winds and hail. A tornado that starts on land and moves over to the water can form a waterspout.

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A fair weather waterspout is able to form under a cloud bank and is able to form even when there isn’t a thunderstorm. These waterspouts rarely make land and are usually more short lived then the tornadic waterspouts.

How does a waterspout occur?

Waterspouts are formed when winds blowing in different directions collide with each other, the collision forces the wind to move in an upwards trajectory. When this happens over water it can lead to the water being sucked up, this rising air carries water vapour which forms rain showers and storms.

As the air rises it can tilt in a circular motion when the spin concentrates at a particular point a  waterspout is formed.

Waterspouts are extremely hard to predict for meteorologists and are quite small for them to analyse when overlooking the world’s weather patterns. They are usually very short lived and on average are estimated to last for around five minutes.

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