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A Very Rare "Winter Waterspout" in Montana!

This photo is of a waterspout I posted lost year that was captured on camera over a lake near Missoula Montana.  

BYQemXVCcAALIaX A waterspout at 2,800' near Missoula MT during snow! #mtwx Via Mike Rawlins@rawlins_mike

Ordinarily, a waterspout wouldn't be that big of a deal, even over a lake in Montana.  However, this one occurred during a snow squal!  This happens to be a VERY RARE occurrance. 

According to Wikipedia: A winter waterspout, also known as a snow devil, anicespout, an ice devil, a snonado, or a snowspout, is an extremely rare instance of a waterspout forming under the base of a snow squall. The term "winter waterspout" is used to differentiate between the common warm season waterspout and this rare winter season event. Very little is known about this phenomenon and only six known pictures of this event exist to date, four of which were taken in Ontario, Canada. 

Snowspout Lake Ontario near Whitby Ontario Jan 26 1994 A snowspout captured on camera over Lake Ontario near the town of Whitby on January 26, 1994  (Notice the steam rising above the lake)

There are a couple of critical criteria for the formation of a winter waterspout. Extremely cold temperatures need to be present over a body of water warm enough to produce fog resembling steam above the water's surface; this requires a 19 °C (34 °F) temperature difference between the water and the invading surface air mass. Like the more efficient lake-effect snow events, winds focusing down the axis of long lakes enhance wind convergence and likely enhance their development.

Here's a rare video of multiple "winter waterspouts" on Lake Champlain in Vermont from January 15, 2009...


YouTube Video courtesy Andy MacDougal @ andymac419

Accoriding to the National Weather Service out of Burlington, Vermont: The video was taken at approximately 10:30am EST on 15 Jaunary 2009. Steam fog is also faintly evident near the water surface. View is from Essex, New York looking to the east toward Vermont. Air temperature was approximately -50F and water temperature was near freezing. 


No fewer than five waterspouts were observed over the southern portion of Lake Champlain during the mid-morning hours on Thursday, 15 January 2009. Smaller low-level whirls (sometimes referred to as steam devils) were also abundant, originating from the arctic sea smoke or steam fog near the water surface. Documented waterspout activity over Lake Champlain is rare. 

Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell


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