Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cold Air Funnels

Although they look almost identical to tornadoes, they are not and usually occur less frequently than twisters. Cold air funnels were spotted developing with the rain showers Tuesday afternoon across Kansas and when you look at the picture, you'll understand why they are mistaken for tornadoes. The setup for cold air funnels involves a large area of low pressure spinning around in the middle atmosphere. The spinning involved with the low pressure system can sometimes get "stretched" vertically by the developing rain showers, and that's when you can sometimes see the funnels extending from the sky. Here is a good example of one that developed Tuesday afternoon.

It is rare that they ever touch the ground, but if they do, damage is minimal. Tornadoes come from thunderstorms that are usually 7-10 miles wide and rotate; cold air funnels come from large areas of rotation in the atmosphere and are not usually associated with thunderstorms. So cold air funnels and tornadoes look alike, but actually, they are quite different.

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